The New England Patriots have been a juggernaut in the NFL for what seems like 80 years. Year in and year out they are right at the top of the league, and this year is no different. However it is weird seeing the Pats as an underdog this far into the playoffs, especially when their opponent is Peyton Manning (10-11 in the playoffs). This is so rare, that in 25 career postseason games, Tom Brady has been an underdog in five of them. That’s not a lot of games, so here is a look at how the Pats have fared as an underdog, in the Tom Brady era.
2001 AFC Championship-Win (Steelers)
The Patriots pulled off the first of two big upsets in this game, as they took down the mighty Steelers, by a score of 24-17. This was the game where Drew Bledsoe was forced to take over for an injured Tom Brady in the second quarter, as he was the guy that led the Pats into the Super Bowl.
2001 Super Bowl-Win (Rams)
Upset of the decade? Possibly. New England was a 14 point underdog in this one, and with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter, it appeared that the Pats might end up falling short (or go to overtime at the very least). But this is where the legend of Tom Brady launched, as he led his team down the field for a game winning Adam Vinatieri field goal.
2005 Divisional Round-Loss (Broncos)
New England was a three point underdog in this game, and unlike the previous two “underdog games”, they didn’t come out victorious here. The Pats turned the football over five times, and Tom Brady lost in the postseason for the first time in his young career.
2006 Divisional Round-Win (Chargers)
The Patriots returned to their upset ways in this game, just edging the 14-2 Chargers by a score of 24-21. Nate Kaeding had a chance to tie the game with three seconds left, but his 54 yard field goal attempt wasn’t long enough.
2006 AFC Championship-Loss (Colts)
This is where Peyton Manning finally got his revenge on Tom Brady, as he led an epic 18 point comeback, which was capped off by a Brady interception with 17 seconds left in the game. This was the last time that Brady and Peyton met in the playoffs, one that will never be forgotten by Brady fans, and Manning fans, although for two completely different reasons.
That 2006 AFC Championship was the last time these Patriots were underdogs in a playoff game, and even though they have lost two of their last three “underdog games”, I love this team in that role. They can play loose, and almost with a “house money” mentality. Meanwhile the Broncos will have all the pressure on them, as everybody will expect them to take care of business, and advance to the Super Bowl.