The last game of the quarterfinals matches the best Patriots' team of the 1960s against the best Patriots' club of the 1970s. Both the 1964 Boston Patriots and the 1976 New England Patriots came close to winning that elusive title but fell short in heart-breaking, season-ending losses. Now they have a chance to wipe away some of that bitterness by competing for the crown as the best Patriots team of all-time.
The '76 Patriots get the first break of the game when a hard hit by linebacker Steve Nelson forces a fumble by Larry Garron. It takes Chuck Fairbanks' crew five plays to convert the turnover, with Sam Cunningham sweeping around the right end for the touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
Unfazed by the early setback the '64 Pats battle back. While the '76 Pats prefer the ground game, Boston quarterback Babe Parilli relies on the passing game to move his team. Despite the unfamiliarity of playing on the artificial surface of Schaefer Stadium, Parilli and his receivers begin to make connections and start moving the football.
"I never did like playing on the artificial turf," said Gino Cappelletti. "I'm a traditionalist and I always preferred the real stuff." The fake surface doesn't seem to bother Gino, who shows off his powerful right leg by booming a 50-yard field goal to get his team on the board and slice the lead to 7-3.
The bigger, faster '76 team takes control of the game in the second quarter with 17 straight points. The powerful New England ground attack starts to pile up yardage, and when Boston starts to crowd the line of scrimmage, Steve Grogan finds tight end Russ Francis running free in the secondary.
"We liked to isolate Russ on a linebacker," explains Francis. "With his speed there wasn't a linebacker who could run with him."
A touchdown by Francis and another by Cunningham give the '76 Pats a comfortable 24-3 lead at halftime. But Mike Holovak's Boston Patriots were built on pride, and they come out for the second half with fire in their eyes. Cappelletti beats safety Tim Fox on a fly pattern for 56 yards, the longest play of the game. Two plays later J.D. Garrett scores, and just minutes later Gino boots another field goal to make the score 24-13.
That is as close as Boston will get. Grogan's Heroes tack on another 10 points to finally put away the stubborn '64 Boston Pats, 34-13. In an amazing display of ball control the '76 Patriots end up holding the ball for more than 41 minutes, running the ball 56 times while putting the ball in the air only 16 times (how's that for a balanced attack!).
While the two Steves, Grogan and Nelson, are named the co-MVP's of the game, the real stars are the unsung heroes of the '76 Patriots offensive line; Leon Gray, John Hannah, Bill Lenkaitis, Sam Adams, and Tom Neville. Anyone who believes this group wouldn't be as successful today needs some serious therapy. You can bet Bill Parcells will be taking them seriously next week.
Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro, MA
|1964 Boston Patriots||3||0||10||0||-||13|
|1976 New England Patriots||7||17||0||10||-||34|
NE '76-Cunningham 8 run (J.Smith kick) 12:14
BOS'64-FG Cappelletti 50 9:51
NE '76-Francis 8 pass from Grogan (J.Smith kick) 8:58
NE '76-Cunningham 12 run (J.Smith kick) 7:06
NE '76-FG J.Smith 20 3:25
BOS '64-J.D. Garrett 6 run (Cappelletti kick) 9:28
BOS '64-FG Cappelletti 19 (10-56-2:56) 5:04
NE '76-FG J.Smith 18 7:56
NE '76-Phillips 6 run (J.Smith kick) 0:56
|**BOS '64**||**NE '76**|
BOS '64-Burton 7-21, J.D. Garrett 3-20, Parilli 2-12, Garron 4-7
NE '76-Cunningham 18-56, Calhoun 15-36, Grogan 6-32, A.Johnson 13-28,
Phillips 1-6, Forte 3-3
BOS '64-Cappellett 3-97, Graham 3-28, Garron 2-15, Romeo 2-22,
NE '76-Francis 3-29, Stingley 3-50, Cunningham 2-10, A.Johnson 1-12,
Briscoe 1-13, Vataha 1-6
BOS '64-Parilli 11-35-0-163
NE '76-Grogan 11-16-2-120, 1 TD
BOS '64-Garron 2, Parilli 1
NE '96-Forte 1
BOS '64-Antwine 1, Schmidt 1
NE '96-Conn 1, Haynes 1
BOS '64-Buoniconti 1-0, Shonta 1-21
NE '76-Fox 1-4, Nelson 1-35
NE '76-Adams 2, McGee 1
MVP: Steve Nelson NE '76
Steve Grogan NE '76