This year’s NFL campaign has reached its halfway point and game week ten brought with it the end of our hopes of seeing a perfect season. The Philadelphia Eagles were the last team remaining with a perfect record and that looked set to continue with a relatively simple-looking home tie against the Washington Commanders.
As seen on this page, NFL betting odds had made the hosts heavy favorites to improve to 9-0 – leaving themselves just eight wins away from immortality. With Jalen Hurts in impeccable form at quarterback, the fixture looked like a gimme for the home side. How wrong we all were.
An uncharacteristically poor display from the home favorites saw the visitors walk away from Lincoln Financial Field with a 32-21 victory. The result sent shockwaves through the league and left the Eagles’ hopes of completing the first perfect regular season in 15 years up in smoke. The Pennsylvania-based outfit now drops to a record of 8-1, while the Commanders improve to 5-5.
The rise of Tom Brady and the Patriots
Back in the early 2000s, the New England Patriots were at the peak of their powers. A young Tom Brady – who is still somehow playing at an elite level despite now being 44 years old – had settled into his role as quarterback and was powering the Boston outfit down the field at will. The GOAT was drafted to the franchise in 2000, but it was his second season in Massachusetts when he found his feet.
With Brady starting at quarterback, the Patriots won the Super Bowl for the first time in their history in the 2001 season. They would go on to win back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004, solidifying themselves as American Footballing royalty. During Brady’s first four years in the Patriots uniform, they had a combined regular season record of 48-16.
Prior to that third Super Bowl success, they had threatened to complete the unthinkable. They reached a record of 6-0 that year before being defeated away at the Pittsburgh Steelers. They wouldn’t have to wait much longer though.
The last perfect regular season
The Patriots would reach the playoffs for three consecutive years following that third championship; however, they were eliminated in the divisional round in the 2005 season. The following term they were defeated in the conference championships by the Indianapolis Colts. But when 2007 rolled around, playtime was over.
The season started with the addition of two new wide receivers. They traded for Wes Welker from the Miami Dolphins and Randy Moss from the Oakland Raiders. And the new signings couldn’t have performed any better, as Welker ended as the league’s top receiver, while Moss led the way in touchdowns received.
The new-look Patriots meant business right from the off. They won their first four games by margins of at least 14 points, before upping it even further as the season approached the halfway mark. During their five games during weeks 6 and 11, Brady and co. scored a whopping 229 points, averaging 45.8 points per game.
Narrow three-point victories over the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens during weeks 12 and 13 meant that a first perfect season since the Miami Dolphins achieved the feat in 1972 was well and truly on the cards. And with three of their last four games all being at home, most pundits and experts thought that the outcome was a probability rather than a possibility.
The Patriots comfortably saw off the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins, meaning all that stood between them, and legendary status was a trip to the New York Giants. And it all very nearly came crashing down.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the hosts led 28-23 and it looked like the New York outfit would ruin the party. The Patriots found a way though, with two touchdowns and an interception being enough to seal the victory and seal their status as icons. The Giants would get another chance to spoil the party, however.
In the divisional round, Tom Brady’s side would see off the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Florida-based outfit had stunned everyone by reaching that stage, the furthest they had progressed in the postseason in eight years. On this occasion, the favorites were just too strong.
Next up were the San Diego Chargers in the conference championships with a spot in Super Bowl XLII up for grabs. The Patriots would clinch a 21-12 victory however, the points had begun to dry up. The 21 points scored was their second lowest of the entire season and the Patriots were beginning to run out of steam at the worst possible time.
Waiting for them in Glendale’s University of Phoenix stadium was once again the New York Giants. Eli Manning’s side was huge underdogs. Prior to this run, they hadn’t won a playoff game since reaching the Super Bowl eight years prior, which they lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
The match was once again a low-scoring affair, just as was the case in the previous round. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Patriots led by a score of just 7-3. But the pendulum would swing the way of the underdogs with a touchdown early in the fourth, which changed the tide.
The favorites would continue to battle away, however, and with just over two minutes remaining, it looked as though they nicked the victory when Brady found Moss in the end zone. There was one last sting in the tale remaining.
With just 35 seconds left on the clock, Manning would find wide receiver Plaxico Burress in the end zone, whose touchdown gave the Giants a narrow 17-14 victory and one of the biggest shocks in Super Bowl history.