by Brendon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff
October 14, 2009
1986 was a magical year on the Boston sports scene. Three of its four professional sports teams reached the championship round in their respective sports. The Patriots got Beantown off to its historic calendar year with an incredible magic carpet ride through the regular season and an unprecedented run through the playoffs.
Playing in their 25th season of professional football, the New England/Boston Patriots started the season with a 26-20 win over Green Bay. Then the team met Chicago, a team they would see again, and went on a skid that saw them lost three of their next four. In the process, supposed rising-star QB Tony Eason looked horrid behind center. In Eason’s first six games he threw 11 interceptions before suffering a shoulder injury in Week Six against Buffalo.
The old gun slinger, Pats hero (remember ‘76 and ‘78), Steve Grogan, took over and the Pats ship took off. After a 14-3 win over Buffalo to go 3-3, Grogan, a player many in the media and in the stands felt was over the hill, led the Pats on a six game win streak. That run included a 20-13 win over the division leading Jets. In that game, Grogan scored the winning TD on a naked bootleg. The Pats also went on to beat Miami 17-13 with the Pats scoring on a memorable flea flicker to get within a touchdown. Grogan then led the Patriots on a 10-play, 80-yard game winning drive.
However. three weeks later, the win streak came to a screeching halt. Not only did the Pats lose to the Jets, but they also lost Grogan to a broken leg.
Eason, playing much better than at the start, was back under center as New England went 2-2 over their next four games. They entered the final week of the season needing a win over Cincinnati to clinch a Wild Card berth. The game was blacked out on local TV, but the Pats ensured their fans would see them again with a 34-23 win.
That, friends, would just be the beginning. New England would start the playoffs in the Meadowlands with a 26 – 14 thrashing of the Jets. The most memorable play of that game was Johnny Remebert’s 15-yard fumble return to put N.E. ahead 23-7.
The next week the Pats exacted revenge on an old-time nemesis with a 27-20 win over the Raiders in L.A. The Pats “D” forced six turnovers and Jim Bowman scored the winning TD when he recovered a Raiders fumble in the end zone. The game will always be remembered for the thuggish antics of Raiders Matt Millen and Howie Long. Millen swung his helmet at N.E. owner Billy Sullivan after the game and opened a gash over Sullivan’s face.
The bloody win led the Pats to another place that had caused them several sleepless nights, Miami, Florida. N.E. hadn’t won in their last 18 trips to South Beach, but with their first Super Bowl appearance hanging in the balance, the Pats put in their finest effort of the season. New England forced six turnovers, bringing their playoff total to 14, and Eason threw three TD’s in a 31-14 win.
What was your favorite memory of that year? What do you remember most about the playoff run?
- Tony Eason 10 starts 2156, 11-17,
- Steve Grogan 6 starts (5-1), 1311, 7-5,
- Craig James -1227 yards (9th NFL), 5 TD, 27-360-2
- Irving Fryar 39-670-7; 2 Punt Return TD (14.1 average) (1st)
- Stanley Morgan 39-760-5, 19.5 (6th NFL)
- Tony Franklin 112 points (8th NFL)
- Andre Tippet 16.5 sacks (2nd)
- Fred Marion 7 INT (T-4th)
Irving Fryar (WR), Brian Holloway (LT), John Hannah (LG), Andre Tippet (LOLB), Steve Nelson (LILB), Raymond Clayborn (RCB), Fred Marion (FS)
Craig James (FB), Fryar, Holloway, Hannah, Tippet, Nelson, Clayborn, Marion