The Patriots needed to find a new leader to rebuild their downtrodden franchise and decided to dip back into the college ranks to find a new head coach, a strategy that served them well in the past. Their choice was Southern Methodist University Head Coach Ron Meyer.
Under Meyer, the Patriots concentrated on strengthening their defensive front-seven in the NFL draft, selecting defensive end Kenneth Sims with the overall No. 1 pick and adding linebackers Andre Tippett and Clayton Weishuhn in the second and third rounds, respectively. Meyer cut many of the veteran players and rode his team hard in training camp, resulting in harsh tempers among the remaining long-time Patriots.
Meyer's no-nonsense approach paid dividends in the season opener at Foxborough against the Baltimore Colts. Collins rushed for 137 of New England's 227 yards on the ground in a resounding 24-13 win. The new-look Patriots defense forced four Colts turnovers and knocked two of Baltimore's key starters out of action with hard hits.
Meyer opted to go with the younger Cavanaugh at quarterback to start the season. But when the New England offense managed only 14 total points in consecutive losses over the next two weeks, the rookie head coach turned to Grogan. In his first start since November 1981, Grogan showed no signs of rust, hitting Morgan for a 63-yard score on his first pass of the year. Grogan threw three touchdown passes in a 29-21 win over the Houston Oilers in Week Four. The New England defense limited Oilers star running back Earl Campbell to 37 yards while registering six sacks and forcing three Houston turnovers.
After the Patriots suffered a 31-7 pounding by the New York Jets, the 1982 NFL season was interrupted for eight weeks by the first in-season player's strike in league history. When the Patriots again took the field on Nov. 21 in a fog-bound Municipal Stadium in Cleveland the long layoff was plainly evident. New England looked sloppy in a dreadfully dull contest that resulted in a 10-7 loss to the Browns.
A one-sided loss to the Bears in Chicago a week later led many to believe the Patriots were still the same bunch of bumbling losers from a year ago. But the following week the Pats returned to Foxborough to host the Miami Dolphins in what would become one of the most famous and bizarre games in NFL history.
The tone of the game was set right from the outset when the opening coin toss was lost in the snow. The two division rivals battled each other and the elements for 55 minutes in a scoreless tie. But with the aid of convict Mark Henderson and his snow plow, John Smith booted a game-winning field goal at the end for a 3-0 win.
Two wins in three weeks gave the Patriots a 5-4 record in the strike-shortened season, and enabled them to grab the seventh spot in the eight-team playoff field. Though only 36,218 were in attendance, the fans celebrated in style, storming the field and tearing down the goalposts at game's end.
The Patriots season ended six days later in Miami in the first round of the playoffs.