Following their victory in Super Bowl XXXVI over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, the Patriots returned to Foxborough as World Champions to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL's primetime Monday Night Football opener. The meeting marked the first regular season game played in the Patriots' new home, Gillette Stadium.
It also set up an AFC Championship rematch, as the Patriots had defeated the Steelers just months earlier to punch themselves a ticket to the big dance.
New England's offense was led by two young up-and-comers in quarterback Tom Brady, who replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe the previous season, and 2002 second-round draft pick Deion Branch, but it was the Patriots defense, which included three current Patriots Hall of Famers in defensive end Willie McGinest, linebacker Tedy Bruschi and cornerback Ty Law, that proved to be too much for the Steelers to handle.
New England struck first when Tom Brady connected with tight end Christian Fauria for a 4-yard touchdown pass, after the Steelers were picked off on their first two drives. Six minutes later, Pittsburgh answered with a touchdown of their own on a 13-yard Kordell Stewart pass to Hines Ward.
It would be the last time the Steelers saw the end zone until the fourth quarter, as the Patriots went on to score 23 unanswered points and force three more Pittsburgh turnovers including sacks from McGinest, Bruschi and Law.
The last points of the game went to the Steelers on a 1-yard touchdown run by Stewart, but it wouldn't be enough. The Patriots captured the win that night in their first game at Gillette Stadium.
In 2015, things are looking all too familiar. The scene is set - coming off a Super Bowl victory, back in a freshly renovated Gillette Stadium, the Patriots open up their season against the Steelers on primetime. Will history repeat itself?