Ranking the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl losses by heartbreak level
4. Super Bowl XXXI vs Green Bay Packers (1996)
Now, here is a game that the Patriots and their fans had every right to feel sad and bad about when it was all over.
New England entered this Super Bowl again with an 11-5 record, but the AFC as a whole wasn’t as strong this year, so they were the No. 2 seed in their conference. They also had a much better head coach and quarterback tandem at the helm in Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe.
Unfortunately, their opponent — the Green Bay Packers — had an even better tandem in charge. Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre had staked the Pack to the No. 1 seed and the best record in the NFL (alongside Mike Shanahan and John Elway’s Denver Broncos) at 13-3.
The Patriots fell behind early by a 10-0 margin, but came roaring back at the end of the first quarter with back-to-back touchdown receptions by Keith Byars and Ben Coates.
Green Bay answered with a touchdown of their own at the top of the second quarter and then went into halftime up 27-14 thanks to a field goal and a two-yard touchdown run from Favre.
Curtis Martin’s touchdown run brought the Patriots within six, but that was as close as they’d get.
Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return touchdown sealed a 35-21 Packers victory, and the Patriots fell to 0-2 in Super Bowl appearances (both losses interestingly came down in New Orleans at the Superdome).
This game was a tough pill to swallow, but it also felt like the Packers ultimately were the better team and deserved to win. The Patriots had a great season that year and a solid team overall, but you’d be hard-pressed to win an argument that their team was better than Green Bay’s in 1996.