Fifty Years Of Patriots Football: 2005
This was the best of times for the Patriots.
They were just coming off their third Super Bowl title in four years with a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Jacksonville.
New England was enjoying their new reign as the modern day NFL dynasty.
Tedy Bruschi was reveling in another championship and his selection to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
However, shortly after he returned home, the linebacker and one of the Patriots’ team leaders experienced a stroke.
Bruschi was only 31 years of age. Way too young to experience a life threatening moment like this.
The Patriots were going into the 2005 season without the heart and soul of their defense. It was uncertain that Bruschi would ever play again.
Offensive coordinator, Charlie Weiss and defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel left the team for head coach gigs at Notre Dame and Cleveland.
The team released long time Patriot, Ty Law. Would the fallout be similar to that of Lawyer Milloy?
The defending Super Bowl champions faced adversity right out of the gate.
The Patriots kicked off the 2005 NFL season on Thursday night at home versus the Oakland Raiders. Led by Tom Brady (306 yards and 2 tds) and Deion Branch (7 catches for 99 yards and a score), New England roared out to a 30-14 lead and didn’t look back.
Perhaps the new banner draped on the Gillette Stadium skyway and fireworks show ignited the Patriots on this night. The team seemed not to miss a beat from their 17-2 Super Bowl championship season of 2004.
The Panthers would deal the Patriots a 27-17 loss in week two before they visited the Steelers for a highly anticipated contest. It would be the re-match of the 2004 AFC Championship game.
Rodney Harrison had great memories of that game. He picked off a Ben Roethlisberger and brought it back to the house
after an 87 yard scamper.
However, Harrison’s visit early in the 2005 season did not have such a story book ending. The Patriots lost yet another defensive leader, when Harrison tore all his major ligaments in his knee.
New England won the game 23-20, but not without losing their star safety for the season.
The team would lose one defensive star against Pittsburgh but would re-gain one after the bye week.
In an October Sunday night home game versus Buffalo; Tedy Bruschi made a miraculous return to the gridiron. Suffering from a stroke just eight months earlier, Bruschi became a symbol of will, determination, and inspiration.
However, the Patriots were mediocre most of the season.
Win one. Lose one.
Win two. Lose two.
They stood at 7-5 after 12 weeks. However, just as champions do, the Patriots put it together down the stretch.
New England would win four of their last five games to clinch the AFC East yet again
Some believe Bill Belichick lost the season finale against Miami on purpose. He sat Brady most of the game and inserted seldom used back up Matt Cassel.
Belichick also gave third string quarterback and BC legend, Doug Flutie a moment in the sun. Flutie was the first player to attempt and convert a drop kick in decades.
The head coach didn’t want to play Pittsburgh in the first round. A win would mean a date with the Steelers and a loss would ensure a matchup against Jacksonville.
The Patriots throttled Jacksonville in the Wild Card round, 28-3.
There was no time to savor this victory because the Denver Broncos loomed on the horizon. New England historically has struggled in the Mile High City.
And this playoff meeting was no different.
The Broncos punished the defending champs in this AFC Divisional Playoff bout.
After a short lived 3-0 lead, New England failed behind 24-6 and would go on to lose 27 -13. Turnovers proved costly especially in the red zone. Tom Brady threw an interception intended for Troy Brown in the end zone.
Champ Bailey took the pass and raced over 100 yards to the house. However, before he could get in the end zone, tight end Ben Watson blew him up at the pylon.
Watson did just as he was always instructed by his head coach, Bill Belichick.
He did his job.
But Denver put a major monkey wrench in the New England Dynasty run.
The franchise would be embarking on an off season with a lot of uncertainties.
Could they sign wide receivers Deion Branch (78 catches for 798 yards, 5 td’s) and David Givens (59 catches for 738 yards, 2 td)?
Would Harrison and Bruschi ever be the same?
Was this end of a dynasty?
Check out the rest of the Fifty Years of Patriots Football Series:
Joe Gill is a featured blogger for Boston Sports Then and Now.