Pats opener not as planned
It would be easy. A cakewalk perhaps.
Sure it was the inaugural game in team history, but that was true for the opponent - the Denver Broncos - as well. After shuffling 350 or so bodies in and out of training camp out in Amherst, Mass., the upstart Boston Patriots were ready to kick things off for real on Sept. 9, 1960.
Five preseason games were in the books and four of them were Boston wins while Denver was a dismal 0-5. With Butch Songin at quarterback and taskmaster Lou Saban prowling the sidelines, these Patriots seemed as ready as any team in the newly formed American Football League.
One of those preseason wins, incidentally, came against the very same Broncos that would travel east a second time to kick off the AFL's first season at Boston University Field. Just 35 days after the Patriots had annihilated the Broncos, 43-6, in an exhibition affair, the two teams would meet again.
Boston, not surprisingly, lit the scoreboard first. Following a Denver punt, the Patriots took over on their own 29-yard line and went to work. Aided by a roughing call on fourth-and-11, the Patriots drove to the Broncos 27, from which Gino Cappelletti booted a 34-yard field goal for the team's first official points.
Denver answered on the first play of the second quarter when Frank Tripuka tossed a short pass in the right flat to Al Carmichael, who reversed field and scampered 41 yards for a touchdown.
Boston mounted a drive midway through the quarter, but the Denver defense held on a fourth-and-two play from the Broncos 33 and the Patriots went to halftime trailing 7-3.
Late in the third, though, another big play extended Denver's fragile advantage. This one came on special teams when Gene Mingo returned a Tommy Greene punt 76 yards along the right sideline for a touchdown.
Thinks looked bleak when Boston's Jim Colclough lost a fumble on the Denver 38, but Chuck Shonta turned the tables two plays later, intercepting a Denver pass at the Patriots 30 and returning it to the Broncos 10-yard line. One play later, Songin found Colclough on the right side of the end zone for a touchdown, which cut Denver's lead to 13-10 at the end of three quarters.
Boston looked to be driving to a lead midway through the fourth quarter following a muffed punt, which helped the Patriots retain possession. With a first down at the Denver 13, the Patriots hoped to escape with at least a tie. After a seven-yard loss on a second down screen pass, Songin was intercepted on the Denver two-yard line.
Deflated, the Patriots never saw the ball again. Denver ran off 16 straight plays to close the game.
The game was not without controversy though. It was rumored that Denver Head Coach Frank Filchock, while on a walk from his team hotel the day before the opener, strolled into the stadium to watch the Patriots practice and knew his opponent's game plan. It certainly seemed so on this day.
The Patriots won their first game a week later in New York against the Titans and finished the season with a 5-9 record.