A familiar playoff foe awaits the Patriots in the 2014 Divisional round. The Baltimore Ravens, much like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, have battled the Patriots for conference Supremacy over the past 13 seasons. In fact, one of those five teams, including the Pats, has represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in 12 of the past 13 years. And once again in 2014, all five were back in the playoffs fighting for a trip to a Super Bowl. As the Divisional Playoff weekend approaches, the Ravens, Patriots, Colts and Broncos are, to no one's surprise, the AFC's final four.
Of the five, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls since 2000 while the Ravens and Steelers have won two each and the Colts won one. Denver has been shut out over that span, but won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998. So the franchises fighting to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVI are battle tested, playoff experienced and know how to win.
When the Patriots host the Ravens on Jan. 10, it will mark the fifth straight season in which New England has hosted a Divisional Round game at Gillette Stadium, the 11th time in 14 seasons that it has reached the Divisional round and the 17th time overall.
The Patriots are 10-6 in their previous 16 Divisional Playoff Games – 8-2 at home and 2-4 on the road. New England has also hosted Baltimore in the postseason three times in the last five seasons – once in the Wild Card round and twice for the AFC Championship – and is 1-2 in those games. This will be the first Divisional Round matchup between the Ravens and Patriots.
Let's take a game-by-game look back at the Patriots Divisional Playoff history:
January 11, 2014
Running back LaGarrette Blount set a franchise playoff record with four rushing touchdowns, three of which came in the first half, as the Patriots opened up a 21-7 lead and pulled away in the second half for a convincing 43-22 win. Blount's 166 yards tied Curtis Martin's franchise-best mark as the Patriots rushed for a modern-day playoff record six touchdowns overall. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck struggled in his first playoff trip to Foxborough as he completed only 20-of-41 passes and was intercepted four times – twice by Alfonzo Dennard and once each by linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower. The win sent the Patriots to Denver for their third straight AFC Championship Game appearance.
January 13, 2013
The Texans returned to Gillette a month after being blown out in Foxborough in a measuring-stick game before which they wore high school/college-like varsity jackets to the stadium. The rematch results were no better for the visitors. The Patriots cruised to a 41-28 win that was 38-13 two minutes into the fourth quarter. Tom Brady paced the offense, completing 25-of-40 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns – two to running back Shane Vereen and one to wideout Brandon Lloyd. Vereen also scored on the ground as did Stevan Ridley. It was 17-10 at halftime before New England rattled off 21 unanswered points. The win set up an AFC Championship rematch with the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette.
January 14, 2012
Fresh off an overtime upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos rolled into Foxborough only to be blown out of the game by halftime. The Patriots scored early and often opening up a 14-0 first quarter lead and adding 21 more points by halftime for a 35-7 advantage. Tom Brady tied an NFL playoff record with six touchdown passes, three of which went to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Tebow, meanwhile, completed just 9-of-26 passes for 136 yards as Denver was outgained 509-252.
January 16, 2011
Tom Brady entered the playoffs on fire, having gone 335 attempts without an interception during an MVP season in which the Patriots finished 14-2. But the division-rival New York Jets brought his kryptonite to Foxborough. He was intercepted on the Patriots first possession, and the Jets built a 14-3 halftime lead. A botched Patriots fake punt in the second quarter set the Jets up for a late touchdown with 33 seconds left in the half. The Pats offense struggled to move the ball throughout but managed to pull within a field goal on a Brady pass to Alge Crumpler with 13 seconds left in the third quarter. The Jets answered immediately, however, with a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took just 2:13. The Patriots made it a one-score game with 24 seconds left as they were upset in front of the home crowd for the second straight season.
January 12, 2008
The undefeated Patriots flew into the playoffs on an emotional high after completing the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history, and Tom Brady sizzled in the Divisional Playoff win over the Jaguars. The NFL's MVP, who threw a then-record 50 touchdown passes during the season, completed 26-of-28 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-20 win over the Jags. The Patriots outscored Jacksonville 17-6 in the second half to break a 14-14 tie and took advantage of two Jaguars turnovers to secure the win. Rodney Harrison set a franchise record with his seventh career postseason interception and tied an NFL record by recording an interception in his fourth straight postseason game. Tight end Ben Watson was the recipient of two Brady TD throws.
January 14, 2007
The Patriots fell behind Philip Rivers and the Chargers, 14-3, in San Diego before Tom Brady connected with wideout Jabar Gaffney for a 6-yard touchdown with eight seconds left in the half. It was 14-13 when LaDanian Tomlinson scored form three yards out for a 21-13 Chargers lead. That's when Troy Brown saved the Patriots season. Trailing by eight and facing a fourth-and-five situation from the San Diego 41, quarterback Tom Brady fired a pass down the middle to Brown that was intercepted by Chargers defensive back Marlon McCree. As McCree began to run with the ball, Brown punched it out and teammate Reche Caldwell recovered to give the Patriots a new life with a first down at the Chargers 32-yard line. Five plays later, Caldwell caught a 4-yard TD pass from Brady and Kevin Faulk ran in the conversion to tie the game. After a Chargers punt, the Patriots needed seven plays to move from their own 15 to the San Diego 13 to set up Stephen Gostkowksi for a 31-yard field goal with 1:10 left that proved to be the game-winner. The win sent the Patriots to Indianapolis for the AFC Championship Game.
January 14, 2006
Invesco Field at Mile High
A close game at halftime slipped away from the Patriots in the second half as they failed to find an offensive rhythm. The game was scoreless until Adam Vinatieri put the Patriots on the board with a 40-yard field goal with 3:48 left in the first half. Momentum swung, however, over an eight-play stretch in the final two minutes of the half. A Kevin Faulk fumble with 1:51 left gave Denver the ball at the Patriots 40. On the next play. Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer threw deep, and officials flagged Asante Samuel for a highly questionable pass interference call in the end zone. One play later, Mike Anderson scored from the one to give Denver the lead. Ellis Hobbs then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which led to a 50-yard Jason Elam field goal before the break. It was 10-6 late in the third quarter with the Patriots driving and facing a third-and-goal from the Broncos 5-yard line when Tom Brady made a critical mistake. Rolling away from pressure, Brady threw to the end zone to Troy Brown, but Champ Baily intercepted the pass and returned it all the way to the Patriots 1-yard line. Anderson scored again from one yard out and a fourth quarter Broncos touchdown made it 24-6 and put the game out of reach.
January 16, 2005
The Patriots defense dominated Peyton Manning and the high flying Colts on a blustery, snowy day in Foxborough. Corey Dillon ran 23 times for 144 yards and Tom Brady ran for a score and threw for another to earn the win. The Patriots forced three turnovers including one in which linebacker Tedy Bruschi ripped the ball right out of running back Dominick Rhodes' hands. Brady was an efficient 18-for-27 for 144 yards with a TD pass to David Givens. Manning tossed an interception to Rodney Harrison and could not put his team in the end zone. The Patriots advanced to the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh with the win.
January 10, 2004
The coldest game in Patriots history kicked off exactly 11 years before this year's Divisional game against the Ravens. It was four degrees when the Tennessee Titans visited Gillette Stadium in the 2003 playoffs. Wind chills put it in the minus-12 degree range. The Patriots got on the board on their opening possession when quarterback Tom Brady connected with speedy Bethel Johnson for a 41-yard touchdown, but the Titans answered right back to tie the game. Rodney Harrison intercepted Steve McNair on Tennessee's next possession to set up a touchdown drive that ended in an Antowain Smith 1-yard TD run. The Titans tied it, 14-14, with 4:14 to go in the third quarter where it remained until late in the fourth. New England took over possession on the Titans 40-yard line with 6:40 left in the game. Four plays later, Brady and the offense faced a fourth-and-three from the 33. Given the weather conditions, head coach Bill Belichick elected not to attempt a field goal and went for it on fourth down. Brady connected with Troy Brown to move the chains, but the Patriots stalled three plays later at the Titans 27. Clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri answered the bell, driving a rock-hard football 46 yards through the uprights for a 17-14 lead. Tennessee had one final chance. It faced a fourth-and-12 from the Patriots 42 with 1:45 left when McNair heaved a pass to Drew Bennett, who couldn't quite secure the ball. He was then hit by Patriots defensive backs Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson, who knocked the ball to the ground to secure the win.
January 19, 2002
The Tuck Rule game. Tom Brady's first playoff game. This one is the most famous Divisional Playoff Game in team history. It was the last, and probably greatest game at the old Foxboro Stadium. This one had it all. East Coast vs. West Coast. The hated Raiders vs. the hometown Patriots. Snow. Controversy. Heroics. Snow angels. And a snow plow. Snow fell throughout the day and continued through the game. The Raiders broke a scoreless tie early in the second quarter on a Rich Gannon-to-James Jett 13-yard TD pass. The Patriots finally broke through with a 23-yard field goal on the second half's opening possession. Oakland answered with a field goal of its own and then added another for a 13-3 advantage entering the fourth quarter. Brady then guided a 10-play, 67-yard drive that he finished with a 6-yard touchdown run to draw New England within three with 7:52 left in the game. Then came a critical turn of events. Facing a third-and-one with 2:24 left in the game, Oakland handed to powerful fullback Zack Crockett, but rookie defensive lineman Richard Seymour got penetration, freeing Tedy Bruschi and Ty Law to stop Crockett short on what was a game-saving play. After Larry Izzo recovered his second fumbled punt of the fourth quarter, the Patriots took over on the Raiders 47. Three plays later, the Patriots season appeared over when Charles Woodson came on a corner blitz and sacked Tom Brady, forcing a fumble that Oakland's Greg Biekert recovered with 1:47 to go. But the play was reviewed by referee Walt Coleman, who determined that Brady's arm was moving forward when he lost the ball, which by rule, made it an incomplete pass. With a new life, New England drove to the Oakland 28 before calling on Adam Vinatieri to extend the season. Vinatieri drove a 45-yard kick through the snow and the uprights to tie the game in what is widely regarded as the greatest field goal in NFL history. The kick sent the game to overtime where Vinatieri hit from 23 yards out to win the game and send long snapper Lonie Paxton to the end zone to make snow angels. It was a win for the ages and sent the Patriots to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Tight end Jermaine Wiggins emerged as the star of the game with a team-high 10 catches and David Patten added eight receptions for 107 yards. Coleman's words spoken with his southern drawl are frozen in Patriots history, "After further review, the quarterback's arm was going forward. It is an incomplete pass."
January 3, 1998
Three Rivers Stadium
A crushing late-season, home loss to the Steelers meant the playoff rematch would be played in Pittsburgh. Three plays into the game, Steelers cornerback Chad Scott intercepted Drew Bledsoe at the Steelers 11 and returned it to his own 38. Eight plays later, Pittsburgh faced a second-and-10 from the Patriots 40. Steelers mobile quarterback Kordell Stewart avoided a heavy pass rush and broke around the left end and up the sideline where it appeared he'd run out of bounds. Pats linebacker Todd Collins had a chance to knock him out, but pulled up to avoid a penalty. Stewart never stepped out, though, and raced down the sideline for the game's only touchdown. It was 7-3 at halftime and remained 7-3 heading into the fourth quarter. A 46-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal with 12:16 left in the game made it 7-6. Late in the fourth, Pittsburgh drove to the Patriots 1-yard line and faced a fourth-and-goal situation. Rather than kick a field goal for a four-point lead, Pittsburgh elected to go for it and called on Stewart, who was stopped short of the goal line by Tedy Bruschi. The Patriots got the ball back on their 1 with 3:24 left and moved out of harm's way to the 42 with 1:50 to go. That's when future Patriot Mike Vrabel broke free and sacked Bledsoe, forcing a fumble that Steelers linebacker Jason Gilden recovered to essentially end the game.
January 5, 1997
Hosting their first playoff game since 1978, the Patriots jumped all over the Pittsburgh Steelers on a mild, foggy day. After forcing a Pittsburgh three-and-out to start the game, New England took over on its own 45. On the first offensive play from scrimmage, quarterback Drew Bledsoe hit Terry Glenn deep for a 53-yard completion to the Pittsburgh 2. Curtis Martin took it in from there on the next play and New England had a 7-0 lead it would never relinquish. After another Steelers, three-and-out, Bledsoe made it 14-0 when he hit running back Keith Byars for a 34-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead 7:05 into the game. New England extended the lead to 21-0 on a Martin 78-yard touchdown run with 9:55 left in the half for his second of three TD runs on the day. Pittsburgh finally got on the board with 3:50 left in the third, but a 23-yard Martin TD run ended any hopes of a Steelers miracle comeback as New England rolled to victory. Martin finished with 166 rushing yards, which is currently tied for the most in a single postseason game in Patriots history (LaGarrette Blount).
January 4, 1987
Mile High Stadium
Coming off a magical playoff ride that ended in the franchise's first Super Bowl berth the year before, the division champion Patriots went on the road to face John Elway and the Denver Broncos. New England took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter on a 19-yard Tony Eason-to-Stanley Morgan touchdown pass. Elway scored on a 22-yard run midway through the second quarter, but a Tony Franklin field goal with :02 left in the half sent the teams to the break tied, 10-10. Denver jumped ahead on a third quarter field goal before Eason once again connected with Morgan on a 45-yard touchdown strike for 17-13 Pats lead. Elway answered with another big play of his own, connecting with Vance Johnson for a 48-yard touchdown pass and a 20-17 lead as the third quarter ended. The Patriots had one final gasp, but it was a short-lived. They took over at their own 10-yard line with 1:41 to go, but Rulon Jones got free and sacked Eason in the end zone for a safety and the 22-17 final score.
January 5, 1986
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Fresh off a Wild Card round road win over the division-rival New York Jets, the Patriots went back on the road for the Divisional Round to face the hated Los Angeles Raiders in the teams' first playoff matchup since the Raiders controversial 1976 postseason win. The Patriots took advantage of an early mistake when Jim Bowman recovered a muffed punt at the LA 21-yard line. Two plays later, the Patriots had a 7-0 lead courtesy of a Tony Eason-to-Lin Dawson 13-yard touchdown pass. The Patriots turned Oakland over on its next possession as well with Ronnie Lippett intercepting Marc Wilson. But after stalling, Rich Camarillo's punt was blocked, setting LA up at the Patriots 16. New England held the Raiders to a field goal and led, 7-3, until Wilson connected with Jessie Hester on a 16-yard TD pass for a 10-7 Raiders lead. After a Mosi Tatupu fumble, LA extended its lead to 17-7on an 11-yard Marcus Allen run midway through the second quarter. New England made it 17-14 on a 2-yard TD run by Craig James that completed a 10-play, 80-yard drive with 3:38 left in the half. Two plays later, Lippett intercepted Wilson for a second time, setting up the Patriots at the LA 28 with 2:43 to go. Tony Franklin tied the game at 17 with a 45-yard field goal with 1:45 left but the Raiders needed only 1:39 to drive from their own 19 to the Patriots 14 before Matt Bahr hit a 32-yard field goal as time expired for a 20-17 Raiders halftime lead. The teams traded third-quarter fumbles before New England tied the game on a 32-yard Franklin field goal that to complete a 12-play drive. The Raiders, however, fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Bowman recovered his second fumble – this one for a touchdown and a 27-20 Patriots lead. Wilson threw his third interception midway through the fourth quarter and the Patriots closed it out to advance to the AFC Championship Game in Miami.
December 31, 1978
The Patriots won their first AFC Eastern Division title in 1978 and hosted their first playoff game. But the feat was mired by distractions entering the game, and team was overwhelmed early and never really competed as the Oilers rolled to a 24-0 lead and an eventual 31-14 win. Just a week before, head coach Chuck Fairbanks had been fired after ownership learned that he had secretly accepted the head coaching job at the University of Colorado. His coordinators coached the final regular season game in Miami, but Fairbanks was reinstated for the playoff game. The turmoil was obviously too much to overcome. Oilers quarterback Dan Pastorini threw three first-half touchdown passes including a 71-yard strike to Ken Burrough to take a 21-0 lead to halftime. New England tried to make a game of it in the second half, but never really threatened. Earl Campbell's 2-yard touchdown run with 3:21 left sealed New England's fate. Pastorini completed 12-of-15 passes in the game for 200 yards and three TDs while Campbell ran 27 times for 118 yards. The Patriots, who set a single-season NFL rushing yards record that year, gained only 83 yards on the ground while Steve Grogan struggled, completed 3-of-12 passes for 38 yards before giving way to Tom Owen for the second half.
December 18, 1976
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
The Patriots entered the 1976 playoffs with Super Bowl aspirations. The Oakland Raiders entered with an impressive 13-1 record, but that loss was a 48-17 pounding at the Patriots hands. Controversial calls throughout the game marred the outcome and left a bitter taste in New England that lasted years and many would argue, took 25 years to avenge (The Tuck Rule game). The Patriots led 21-10 entering the fourth quarter, but Oakland cut into that advantage on a 1-yard Mark Van Eeghan touchdown with 11 minutes left. The Patriots took over with 6:24 left in the game and faced third-and-five from the Oakland 32 when Steve Grogan dropped back to pass and threw to tight end Russ Francis. Francis was being held so badly by Phil Villapiano on the play that he couldn't raise his arms to catch the ball. The pass fell incomplete without a flag being thrown and John Smith missed the ensuing 50-yard field goal try. That set the stage for an even more controversial officiating decision. Facing a third-and-18 play from the Patriots 27, Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler dropped back to pass and came under pressure from Ray Hamilton. Stabler heaved the ball out of bounds as Hamilton tried to deflect the pass. But Hamilton's hand then grazed Stabler's helmet as the quarterback ducked, which drew a controversial roughing-the-passer flag from referee Ben Dreith. The "Phantom Roughing the Passer" call, as it is known in New England, bailed Oakland out of a dire situation and gave it new life and a first down at the New England 13. Four plays later, Stabler scrambled for a 1-yard TD run with 10 seconds left in the game. Patriots offensive lineman Bill Lenkaitis had not been flagged for holding during the entire 1976 season, but was called for it three times in this game. The Raiders George Atkinson hit Francis so hard in the facemask that Francis suffered a broken nose. No flag. Dreith did not work another Patriots game until 1987.
About The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon
The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon is the crown jewel of Patriot Place and the only sports and education experience of its kind. Through a dazzling array of interactive multimedia exhibits and artifacts never before viewable by the public, The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon showcases the tradition of the New England Patriots, explores the history of football in New England, and promotes math and science education for the thousands of schoolchildren expected to visit each year. For more information, please visit www.thehallatpatriotplace.com.