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Coming off a disappointing 6-10 record in 1995, hopes for the New England Patriots in 1996 were for a return to the playoffs. For once the fans’ expectations were not only met but also exceeded, as the Patriots fashioned the most exciting and successful season in franchise history.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (0-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0) Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. ET TCF Bank Stadium (52,000) PATRIOTS: Download Game Release | Roster | Depth Chart | Injury Report VIKINGS: Roster | Depth Chart | Game Preview The New England Patriots will be on the road for the second straight week when they travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings after opening the season at Miami. It is the ninth time in New England team history that they will open the season with two road games (1964, 1968, 1984, 1996 and 2003) and the first since 2003*. The game will be played at TCF Bank Stadium, the home of the University of Minnesota football team. The Vikings will play there for the 2014 and 2015 seasons while their new stadium is being built. The last time the Patriots played at a college football stadium was in 2002 when the Patriots played the Bears on Nov. 10 at Champaign, Ill., the home of the University of Illinois, while the Bears' stadium was being renovated. The Patriots first visit to Minnesota was played outside on Oct. 27, 1974 when the Patriots played at Metropolitan Stadium, a 17-14 New England win. * In 1968 the Patriots second game was considered a home game but it was played in Birmingham, Ala. BROADCAST INFORMATION TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Jenny Dell will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Mark Wolff and directed by Bob Fishman. NATIONAL RADIO: This week's game will be broadcast to a national audience by Sports USA. Larry Kahn and John Robinson will call the game while Troy West will handle sideline duties. LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 FM, The Sports Hub, is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. PATRIOTS STREAKING VS. NFC NORTH The AFC East faces the four teams from the NFC North this year as part of the NFL's schedule rotation. Over the past 12 seasons, the Patriots have an 11-game winning streak against the NFC North. Since realignment in 2002, their only loss against the current NFC North was on Oct. 13, 2002, when they dropped a 28-10 decision at home against the Green Bay Packers in their very first game against the reconfigured division. The Patriots were 4-0 against the NFC North in 2010 and 2006 and won their final three games NFC North matchups in 2002 after the loss to the Packers. This Patriots streak is the longest current streak any NFL team has against another division. Kansas City has the second longest streak at 10 straight wins against the NFC West. They lost their first two games against the current NFC West in 2002 and then went on their 10-game winning streak. SERIES HISTORY The Patriots and Vikings will meet for the 12th time overall and for the first time since the 2010 season when the Patriots defeated the Vikings, 28-18, on Oct. 31 at Gillette Stadium. The game will be played at TCF Bank Stadium, the home of the University of Minnesota football team. The Vikings will play there for the 2014 and 2015 seasons while their new stadium is being built. The last time the Patriots played at a college football stadium was in 2002 when the Patriots played the Bears on Nov. 10 at Champaign, Illinois, the home of the University of Illinois, while the Bears' stadium was being renovated. The Patriots first visit to Minnesota was played outside on Oct. 27, 1974, when the Patriots played at Metropolitan Stadium, a 17-14 New England win. The Patriots are 2-2 overall in games played in Minnesota. The last time the Patriots played in Minnesota was a 2006 Monday Night Football game on Oct. 30, with the Patriots claiming a 31-7 victory. In the 2006 game, Tom Brady completed 29-of-43 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns, and LB Tully Banta-Cain celebrated the birth of his first child, and then that night set a then career-high with 2 1/2 sacks. The Patriots are 5-2 overall against Minnesota in home games with a 0-1 record at Harvard Stadium, a 3-1 record at Foxboro Stadium and a 2-0 record at Gillette Stadium. Two of the more memorable games were a 1994 Patriots win and the 2006 Monday Night Football win. The Patriots entered the 1994 game with a 3-6 record before overcoming a 20-0 deficit for a 26-20 overtime win that sparked a seven-game winning streak and a 10-6 record to earn a playoff berth. Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe set NFL records with 45 completions and 70 attempts while passing for a team-record 426 yards in that game. SERIES BREAKDOWN Includes Postseason Overall Record, 7-4 Record in New England, 5-2 Harvard Stadium, 1-0 Schaefer/Sullivan/ Foxboro Stadium , 3-1 Gillette Stadium, 2-0 Road in Minneapolis, 2-2 Metropolitan Stadium, 1-0 HH Metrodome, 1-2 Bill Belichick vs. Minnesota, 3-3 (3-1 with New England) PASSING PERFORMANCES Tom Brady is slated to start against Minnesota for the fourth time in his career. Brady's best performance against the Vikings came at Minnesota in 2006 on Monday Night football when he threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 31-7 Patriots victory. CONNECTIONS NEW ENGLAND TIES Vikings G Vladimir Ducasse was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti before moving to Connecticut with his brother, Macarthur, in 2002 to live with his aunt and uncle. He started 20 straight games at Stamford (Conn.) HS, where he was named first-team All-Fairfield County. Ducasse played collegiately at the University of Massachusetts, where he was a full-time starter at left tackle in his junior and senior seasons and earned first-team All-America honors by the Associated Press in 2009. Vikings C John Sullivan was named Gatorade's Connecticut Player of the Year as a senior at Greenwich (Conn.) HS, leading the team to a 12-1-1 mark and a berth in the state title game. Sullivan also won three state heavyweight wrestling championships. Vikings DT Shamar Stephen played collegiately at the University of Connecticut, where he started all 12 games as a senior captain in 2013, earning Team MVP and All-American Athletic Conference second-team honors. MINNESOTA TIES Patriots DL Zach Moore attended Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., where he played in 39 games and set school records with 33 sacks and six forced fumbles. Moore was the first player in Concordia-St. Paul history to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and drafted into the league. FORMER PATRIOTS Vikings QB Matt Cassel was originally drafted by New England in the seventh round (230th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. He started 15 games for the Patriots in 2008 while filling in for injured QB Tom Brady and completed 327 of 516 passes for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns. Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson served in the same capacity for the Patriots in 1997. FORMER VIKINGS Patriots defensive assistant Brendan Daly was most recently the defensive line coach for the Vikings from 2012-13, and had previously served as the team's defensive assistant/defensive line coach from 2006-08. Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea served on the Vikings' staff as an offensive assistant/wide receivers coach from 2006-08. HOMETOWN TIES Patriots WR Kenbrell Thompkins and Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater both attended Miami (Fla.) Northwestern HS, where Bridgewater took over starting quarterback duties as a sophomore in 2008 after Thompkins graduated. FORMER NFL TEAMMATES Patriots WR Brandon LaFell and Vikings CB Captain Munnerlyn played together for the Carolina Panthers from 2010-13. Patriots offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo coached Vikings C Joe Berger from 2009-10 while serving as offensive line coach for the Dolphins. DeGuglielmo also tutored Vikings G Vladimir Ducasse in 2012 while he was offensive line coach for the Jets. FORMER COLLEGE TEAMMATES Patriots DL Dominique Easley and Vikings DT Sharrif Floyd were teammates on the defensive line at Florida from 2010-12. Patriots LB Darius Fleming, Vikings S Harrison Smith, S Robert Blanton and TE Kyle Rudolph were teammates at Notre Dame from 2008-10. Fleming, Smith and Blanton also played together in 2011, when Rudolph declared early for the NFL Draft. Patriots C Bryan Stork (2009-13), Vikings QB Christian Ponder (2006- 10), CB Xavier Rhodes (2009-12) and WR Rodney Smith (2009-12) played together at Florida State. Patriots DT Sealver Siliga and Vikings RB Matt Asiata were teammates at Utah from 2008-10. PATRIOTS: Download Game Release | Roster | Depth Chart | Injury Report VIKINGS: Roster | Depth Chart | Game Preview
Despite the considerable progress made by the Patriots since joining the NFL in 1970, the club had not posted a winning season in almost a decade. That finally changed in 1976, as the Patriots won more games in one season than in any year in their history.
The Patriots began the new decade with a familiar face as head coach. Rod Rust, who served as the team’s defensive coordinator for five years between 1983-87, was officially named the 10th head coach in team history on Feb.
After making the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Patriots missed out on the postseason in 1987. Inconsistency plagued the team, with their 8-7 record a clear reflection of their mediocre play.