The New England Patriots were founded in 1959 as the Boston Patriots. They were a charter member of the American Football League (AFL) before joining the NFL through the merger in 1970. After playing in numerous stadiums over the first decade-plus, the franchise moved to Foxborough, Massachusetts, in 1971.
When doing so, they changed their name to the New England Patriots. The Patriots played their home games in Foxborough Stadium for the first three decades and have played in Gillette Stadium since 2002.
The Patriots have been the most successful franchise in NFL history in terms of championships, winning six, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have also appeared in the most Super Bowls, with 11.
The Patriots were typically an afterthought among the elite teams in the league before the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era from 2001 to 2019. Seen as one of the greatest dynasties in sports history, the Patriots held the most wins in a decade with 126, the most playoff wins with 37, and the most consecutive seasons with 19.
The Patriots set the record in 2007 as the only team since the 16-game schedule was adopted to go undefeated in the regular season.
Boston business executive Billy Sullivan was awarded the final AFL franchise on November 16, 1959. Over the winter, locals were allowed to voice their ideas for the official team name for the Boston franchise. The most popular choice was adopted as the “Boston Patriots,” which was a reference to the colonists of the Thirteen Colonies who went against the British during the American Revolution. Shortly thereafter, Phil Bissell of The Boston Globe designed the “Pat Patriot” logo.
During the 1960 season, the helmet logo was a tricorne hat, which changed to the Revolutionary War minuteman hiking a football for the next three decades. In 1979, the Patriots and NFL Properties went to work to design a new logo. It featured a blue and white profile of a minuteman in a tricorne hat with a background of a flag. Fourteen years later, another logo was revealed, showing a gray face of a minuteman wearing a red, white, and blue hat. Two decades later, on July 3, 2013, the Patriots unveiled another log using block lettering and a modified cap.
During the 1970s, the Patriots went to the playoffs as a wild card team under Chuck Fairbanks in 1976 and again in 1978 as AFC East champions behind quarterback Steve Grogan. Ron Erhardt took over the team, and the Patriots missed the playoffs over his first two seasons. Under next head coach Ron Meyer, the Patriots advanced to the 1982 playoffs. In 1984, Raymond Berry took over after Meyer was fired due to bad relationships with the management and players. New England won their first AFC title under Berry in 1985 before being routed by the Bears in the Super Bowl.
After one more playoff appearance in 1986 and a very disappointing 1989 season, the Patriots plummeted to 1-15 under Rod Rust.
Robert Kraft Purchases Team
The franchise was in disarray for the next several seasons, undergoing multiple ownership changes. Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994 for $175 million and has been the owner ever since.
Under Robert Kraft’s ownership in the early years, the Patriots hired head coach Bill Parcells to lead the team to two playoff appearances, including Super Bowl XXXI in 1996. The following year, Pete Carroll took over the Patriots, guided the team to the playoffs for the next two years, and was let go following the 1999 campaign.
Bill Belichick Era
The Patriots hired Bill Belichick in 2000, who was the defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells during the Super Bowl. The Patriots became the most dominant teams in the league under Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. After only four years, the duo went on to win Super Bowls in 2001 over the St. Louis Rams, 2003 over the Carolina Panthers, and 2004 over the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 2007 team was one for the record books, winning all 16 regular-season games. However, after advancing to Super Bowl XLII, they were taken down by a New York Giants team that was red hot entering the playoffs. The loss ended the Patriot’s quest for a perfect 19-0 season. At 18-1, they matched the 1984 49ers and 1985 Bears.
The Giants once again were the Patriot’s nemesis, this time taking them down by a 21-17 score in the Super Bowl four years later. Three years later, the Patriots made the Super Bowl for the eighth time, dethroning the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle. The victory was the fourth for Brady and fourth for the franchise overall. The play that sealed the deal was an interception in the end zone after the Seahawks got as close as the one-yard line.
The Patriots reached a record 9th Super Bowl following the 2016 season, continuing to make history. They faced the Atlanta Falcons and looked to be sure losers, trailing by 25 points halfway through the third quarter. Remarkably, the Patriots scored the next 25 points, including the tying points with seconds remaining.
After winning the overtime coin toss, New England wasn’t going to be denied, scoring a touchdown to win a fifth Super Bowl title. Returning to the Super Bowl for the tenth time the following year, New England was taken down by the Philadelphia Eagles by the score of 41-33 in a game that had 1151 yards, shattering the old record by more than 200 yards.
The AFC dominance continued in 2018 as the Patriots cruised to the championship game. In a game opposite Super Bowl LII against Philadelphia, the Patriots won a defensive battle, 13-3, over the Los Angeles Rams for their sixth Super Bowl title. That tied them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most in NFL history.
Tom Brady Departs
A relatively mediocre season by Patriots’ standards in 2019 resulted in an early playoff exit, falling in the first round. The Belichick/Brady dynasty ended with Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via free agency. Cam Newton took over at quarterback for the 2000 season, but the Patriots plummeted further, missing the playoffs and suffering their first losing season in 20 years.
In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Patriots selected quarterback Mac Jones to replace Newton, who was released just before the first game of the 2021 season. A solid rookie season by Jones helped the Patriots advance to the playoffs for the first time without Brady at the helm in 23 years. Although they lost by 30 points to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card game, the future appears bright once again in New England with Jones at quarterback.
Inception to 1992
The original uniform of the franchise was red jerseys with white blocked numbers for home games. On the road, the team wore white jerseys with red blocked numbers. Both home and road uniforms used white helmets and white pants.
In 1960 the hat logo was over the player’s number, but that changed to the “Pat Patriot” logo the following season. Three years later, the helmet was enhanced with a blue stripe.
Nearly a decade later, in 1973, a blue outline was added to the numbers on the jerseys. After experimenting with red pants with white jerseys, the red pants were dropped and returned several times from 1981 through 1992.
Just prior to the 1993 season, the Patriot’s uniforms had a royal blue home jersey and a white away jersey. The “Flying Elvis” logo and no additional striping were present on a silver helmet. Both home and away uniforms featured silver pants with red and blue stripes. Block numbers were featured for one season on home and away jerseys, but that changed to rounded numbers in 1995.
The Patriots removed the rounded numbers and reverted to blocked numbers five years later. Another change was a somewhat subtle change from royal to nautical blue. The franchise also introduced a blue pants/white jersey look for road games, and the number on the white jersey was changed to blue. During the 2002 season, the Patriots wore blue jerseys with blue road pants for two consecutive weeks. In 2012 a red throwback version was released featuring jerseys worn for most years before 1993.
In 2020, more changes were made to the uniform. The Color Rush design that came out in 2016 became the predominant home uniform with updated blocked numbers and letters. Another uniform combination featuring a white jersey, blue pants, and red/white/blue socks was unveiled.
As part of the NFL’s 75th-anniversary celebration, the Patriots wore the “Pat Patriot” helmets and white striped pants in 1994 and 1995. The Patriots had a red jersey as the alternate jersey allowed to be worn twice in 2002. The following year, the Patriots changed their alternate jersey to silver to go along with blue pants. After just five seasons, the uniforms were dropped.
Two years later, the red alternate jersey was reintroduced in conjunction with the “Pat Patriot” helmet. As a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the AFL, the Patriots used a white road jersey with an older version of the helmet for a single game.
As part of the NFL’s Color Rush program in 2016, the Patriots took the field on September 22 with all navy uniforms. They were designed after the uniforms of the 1980s with wide white stripes down both sides of the pants. The uniforms have been worn four times since.
During the early years of the franchise in the AFL, the Boston Patriots played at Nickerson Field from 1960 to 1962, Fenway Park from 1963 to 1968, Alumni Stadium in 1969, and Harvard Stadium in 1970. In 1971, the Patriots began to play at Foxboro Stadium in their second season as an NFL team. The last game at the stadium was three decades later, following a 16-13 win over the Raiders in the 2001 AFC Divisional round.
Funded by owner Robert Kraft, the Patriots moved to the $350-million Gillette Stadium in 2002. Located in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the facility has all the administration offices for the team, the Kraft Group, and the New England Revolution, the Major League Soccer team owned by Kraft.
The field was natural grass until 2006 when it was replaced with FieldTurf. The following year an area outside of the stadium was developed into a nearly $400 million center called Patriot Place. A vital feature of this entertainment center is CBS Scene, which is a restaurant and bar on multiple floors.
Before the teams were in separate divisions in 2002, both teams were among the best in the NFL, featuring Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. In 2003, 2004, and 2006 the teams battled in the playoffs. Prior to Brady entering the NFL, Manning faced the Patriots two times, losing 31-28 in 1999, then defeating the Patriots 20-15 in December of the same year. The first time Brady and Manning squared off was on September 30, 2001. It was Brady’s first NFL start, and the Patriots dismantled the Colts by the score of 44-13. The Patriots went on to win the second meeting of the season on the road by the score of 38-17.
The first meeting after the Colts moved to the AFC South in 2002 was on November 30, 2003. In that contest, the Patriots outlasted the Colts in a shootout, 38-34. The Colts finally got the best of Brady and the Patriots in November 2005 and then won two more times in 2006, including the AFC Championship Game.
Perhaps the best game in the rivalry games was on November 4, 2007, when both teams came undefeated. The Patriots came from behind to win 24-21. The following two meetings went to the Colts in 2008 and 2009.
Manning’s final game against the Patriots while with the Colts was a 31-28 loss in November 2010.
The last time the teams played against each other in the playoffs was on January 18, 2015, in the AFC Championship Game. They won the game by a score of 45-7.
The long-standing rivalry goes back to the days of the AFL, where the teams battled twice a year from 1960 to 1969 and played in the first AFL game on September 9, 1960. The two teams faced off regularly over the past 26 years, including nine straight seasons from 1995 through 2003.
After the conclusion of the 2015 season, the teams have met in the postseason five times, with Denver holding a decided four wins to one advantage. The first playoff meeting between the teams came back in 1987 when John Elway took down the Patriots for his first career postseason victory. Denver’s win in the playoffs over the Patriots in 2006 was their first in the post-Elway era.
On October 11, 2009, the two teams met wearing their AFL 50th anniversary jerseys. The Broncos won in overtime on a 41-yard field goal after Kyle Orton hit Brandon Marshall to force the extra time. Two years later, the two clubs met again in the playoffs, with Brady and the Patriots getting the best of Tim Tebow and the Broncos by 35 points.
The rivalry reached new levels, with Peyton Manning taking over as the Broncos quarterback from 2012 to 2015. Brady defeated Manning nine times in 12 games during the regular season, but Manning took three of the five playoff games between the all-time greats, including two AFC Championship wins in 2013 and 2015.