By Brendon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff
It has often been said, give a good coach three years and he can turn around any team. In New England that was certainly true.
In 1996, in his third year on the sidelines, The Tuna led New England to its second ever Super Bowl appearance. Led by one of the teams most balanced offensive attacks in recent memory, the Patriots rebounded from an 0-2 start to win their third AFC East title. All Pro Drew Bledsoe found himself atop several passing categories with a slew of receivers including rookie Terry Glenn and all-world tight end Ben Coates. At running back was Curtis Martin who gained 1152 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.
There were several key wins during the year, including an overtime win over Jacksonville when a rookie kicker by the name of Adam Vinatieri booted his first ever game-winning field goal. There was also the memorable final game of the regular season when New England found themselves down 22-0 to the Giants. A Vinatieri field goal cut the score to 22-3 with just one quarter to play. Then the Pats went on a remarkable stretch. Drew Bledsoe hit rookie Terry Glenn for a 26-yard score and Dave Meggett returned a punt 60 yards to cut the deficit to 22-17. Ben Coates’ 13-yard TD put New England provided the game-winner and the teams 11th win.
The Patriots drew Pittsburgh, the defending AFC Champions in the divisional round. Playing in a fog so thick it was hard to see the numbers on the field. The weather though, was just as effective as the Steelers defense. The Pats wasted little time as a screen pass to Glenn set up a 2-yard run from Martin and a 7-0 lead. Keith Byars scored on a screen pass and Martin ripped off a 78-yard run to put the game out of reach by the half.
In the Championship game the Pats got Jacksonville, who had upset the top-seeded Broncos. With the unexpected home game, the Pats defense rose to the challenge and picked off Mark Brunell twice and recovered three fumbles in a 20-3 win. Leading 13-6 in the fourth Otis “My Main Man” Smith snared a 47-yard pick-six to ice the game.
What were your favorite memories of that year? Was it Shannon Sharpe calling the President in a Pats loss? How about the draft day drama with Parcells? Or the draft that produced Glenn, Lawyer Milloy and Tedy Bruschi? How about the Parcells drama at the end of the year?
- Drew Bledsoe 373 (1st NFL)-623 (1st), 4086 (3rd), 27 (T-3rd)-15
- Curtis Martin 316 (7th)-1152 (9th), 14 (2nd), 46-333, 3, 17 total TD (2nd)
- Terry Glenn (Rookie) 90 (T-7th)-1132, 6
- Ben Coates 62-682, 9 (T-9th)
- Shawn Jefferson 50-771, 4
- Adam Vinatieri 27-35, 39-42
- Ted Johnson 87-28
- Willie Clay 4 INT
- Willie McGinest 9.5 sacks
Drew Bledsoe (QB), Curtis Marin (RB), Terry Glenn (WR), Ben Coats (TE), Bruce Armstrong (LT), Dave Meggett (KR)
Bledsoe, Martin, Coates, Armstrong, Willie McGinest (RDE), Meggett