A mere eight years separates the 1986 and the 1994 editions of the New England Patriots but the two clubs represent two vastly different eras in franchise history. The '86 AFC East Champs were the last playoff team of the Billy Sullivan-Raymond Berry era, and by 1994 with Bill Parcells in control, both Pat Patriot and the red jerseys had been banished in favor of the flying Elvis and a blue and silver motif.
Not a single player from the 1986 roster remained by 1994, but curiously the two teams were remarkably similar in that both flat out stunk at running the football. Both clubs relied on their quarterbacks to move the ball through the air, which put the burden squarely on the shoulders of Tony Eason and Drew Bledsoe.
Like gunslingers they both come out firing. Eason connects with Stanley "The Steamer" Morgan for an 18-yard score only to have Bledsoe take advantage of a roughing the passer penalty and drive his club 82 yards to knot the score at the end of the first quarter.
The '86 Patriots were a team that excelled in the second quarter and they stay true to form. Eason finds Morgan behind corner Maurice Hurst for another score, and the lead balloons to 21-7 moments later when the opportunistic '86 Pats secondary makes its presence felt.
"(By 1986) We had a veteran defense and a secondary that had played together for a long time," comments former Patriots safety Fred Marion. "We knew how to take advantage of mistakes when we got the chance."
Marion grabs a deflected pass intended for tight end Ben Coates and weaves his way through traffic to the end zone for a touchdown. Trailing by two touchdowns, the team that reflects Parcells' tough personality begins to take charge. Bledsoe catches fire and the '94 Pats reel off 13 straight points to slice the deficit to one.
No Patriot ever endured the fans' wrath more than Tony Eason, and as his offense dissolves the boos and taunts reign down upon him. Cheers then abound as three straight Bledsoe completions result in a touchdown that puts the '94 Pats in front for the first time 27-21.
Down six points with two minutes to play and 80 yards from the endzone Eason is forced to scramble and is brought down hard. A flag for a late hit by linebacker Vincent Brown causes the '94 Patriots sideline to erupt. The irate fans shower the field with debris and it takes several minutes for order to be restored.
The delay seems to drain the momentum from the '94 squad, as Al Groh's defense is riddled for big gains by both Morgan and Irving Fryar to bring the ball to the nine-yard line. Eason then calmly finds tight end Greg Baty in the corner of the endzone for the game-winning score.
Eason and his teammates will have little time to celebrate as their next opponent will be Parcells' 1996 Super Bowl club. Do you think the Tuna might have a new wrinkle for Ray Berry's boys this time around?
|1994 New England Patriots||7||6||7||7||-||27|
|1986 New England Patriots||7||14||0||7||-||28|
NE '86-Morgan 18 pass from Eason (Franklin kick) 6:14
NE '94-Timpson 19 pass from Bledsoe (Bahr kick) 3:11
NE '86-Morgan 44 pass from Eason (Franklin kick) 14:15
NE '86-Marion 48 interception return (Franklin kick) 11:51
NE '94-FG Bahr 44 7:49
NE '94-FG Bahr 35 2:00
NE '94-Coates 8 pass from Bledsoe (Bahr kick) 9:17
NE '94-Brisby 12 pass from Bledsoe (Bahr kick) 12:46
NE '86-Baty 9 pass from Eason (Franklin kick) 0:44
|**NE '94**||**NE '86**|
NE '94-Butts 18-47, Bledsoe 6-23, L.Thompson 3-13, Turner 2-12
NE '86-Collins 12-54, C.James 9-12, Eason 1-0, Tatupu 1-0
NE '94-Brisby 8-76, Timpson 7-94, Coates 4-58, Butts 2-9, Turner 1-10, Crittenden 1-24
NE '86-Morgan 8-158, Collins 3-32, Fryar 3-34, Baty 3-24, Hawthorne 2-18, C.James 1-5
NE '94-Bledsoe 23-35-1-271, 3 TD
NE '86-Eason 20-26-0-271, 3 TD
NE '86-Fryar 1
NE '86-Veris 1
NE '86-Marion 1-48
NE '94-Pitts 1, M.Jones 3
NE '86-T.Williams 1
Game MVP: Stanley Morgan NE'86