5 of the most unbreakable records in Patriots history

It's at times like this we could use some cheering up, let's remember when the Patriots were a perennial Super Bowl team. And there's other stuff too.
Super Bowl XLII - New York Giants v New England Patriots
Super Bowl XLII - New York Giants v New England Patriots / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

In 2016, full-time physiological freak and occasional swimmer Michael Phelps said “Records are made to be broken no matter what they are. Anybody can do anything that they set their mind to”, that’s big talk from a man who doesn’t produce lactic acid. 

Records may be made to be broken, but that doesn’t mean they all will be. 

According to the NFL’s website, football has some unbreakable records, including Derrick Thomas’ seven sacks in a single game and Jim Hardy’s eight interceptions in a single game! They do seem pretty unbreakable.

But what about single-season records? In the same article, NFL.com suggests that the 2,105 rushing yards Eric Dickerson racked up back in 1984 will never be beaten.

That's probably right with the advent of analytics and rule changes that make quarterbacks a protected species. How about the Patriots’ records? Well, a team with such a rich recent history has records that look set in stone, too. 

5 of the most unbreakable records in Patriots history

Randy Moss’ 23 touchdown receptions in 2007 

It’s not just a Patriots single-season record; it’s an NFL record. Only two players have caught more than 20 scoring passes in a single season; the other is Jerry Rice. He did it in 1987 when he only played 12 regular season games because he’s the GOAT. 

Even though an extra game has been added to the schedule since Moss set his record in 2007, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to average more than 1.4 touchdown receptions per game again! 

Davante Adams is the only active receiver to come anywhere near the record. In 2020, when he was in Green Bay, Adams hauled 18 scoring passes in 16 games. Even if Adams had played 17 games, he would still have been four short of the record.

The only Patriots player to threaten the team record was Rob Gronkowski in 2011, but even he could only manage 17 in 16 games. 

Tom Brady’s 5,235 passing yards in 2011 

Brady had an all-star supporting cast helping him as he set the team’s single-season passing record. Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and the tragic Aaron Hernandez all saw more than 90 targets in 2011!  

Chad Johnson only caught 15 passes, but he racked up 276 yards at 18.4 yards per reception despite the rumor that he never actually learned the playbook! Matthew Slater only caught one pass, but he took it 46 yards! 

TB12’s 5,235 passing yards are just 242 short of Peyton Manning’s all-time single-season NFL record. That equates to 327.2 yards per game. By way of comparison, Patrick Mahomes has never averaged more than 318.6 yards per game, and he led the league in both 2020 and 2022! 

You might think that to rack up that many yards the team must have relied on the passing game to move the ball downfield. Bill O’Brien’s 2011 offense only threw the ball on 57% of the snaps. 

Technically that is quite a pass-heavy offense for O’Brien who only threw the ball 55% of the time last year. But his 2023 offense was more pass-heavy than the league-leading Cowboys who racked up 4,514 passing yards! Mike McCarthy's guys threw less than 54% of the time! 

New Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt called pass plays on 53% of the Browns snaps in 2023. At that rate, the Patriots' receivers will have to gain 13.8 yards every time to catch the ball to break the record! 

Tom Brady’s 50 passing touchdowns in 2007 

The GOAT's 50 touchdowns are just five behind another of Peyton Manning’s NFL records. Only three QBs have broken the 50-touchdown barrier; the third of the triumvirate is Patrick Mahomes.

If TB12 had an all-star offense around him when he racked up 5,235 passing yards, then 2007 saw a more collaborative effort. Randy Moss did haul in 46% of the scoring passes, but the rest were shared between seven pass catchers. 

Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, Kyle Brady, Kevin Faulk, and even Mike Vrabel all played their part in helping Brady reach his half-century. 

Since 2020, only three players have thrown more than 40 touchdowns in a regular season. One of them is Brady (and another is Mahomes), so 50 seems well out of reach for the Patriots' current quarterback room.  

Corey Dillon’s 1,635 rushing yards in 2004  

In 2004, Dillon broke the record Curtis Martin set in 1995 by 148 yards, and Dillon only played 15 games in 2004! 

In the last ten seasons, only DeMarco Murray (remember him?), Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, and Jonathan Taylor have recorded more than 1,652 yards. This particular record looks set to become a reminder of a bygone age. 

The prevalence of analytics within coaching means workhorses like Henry, Jacobs, and Taylor are a dying breed. Running back by committee is considered a much more prudent option, although the new “hip drop tackle” rule is making defenders’ jobs even harder, which could change.  

Zeke Elliott is the only other active player in the top 50 of the single-season rushing records list. He set his record back in 2016. 

If Alex Van Pelt has two running backs who combine for 1,635 rushing yards in 2024 he’ll be a happy man. 

27 interceptions thrown in a season 

Everyone connected with the Patriots hopes this one IS unbreakable going forward. Both Drew Bledsoe and Babe Parilli threw 27 picks in a season! But in the 1964 season, when Parilli threw his 27 interceptions, he accomplished it in just 14 games!

As if to prove his point, Parilli followed up on that 1964 performance by throwing 26 picks in 1965! In some ways, that display was even worse. He threw 31 touchdown passes in ‘64, but in ‘65, he only managed 18 scoring passes! 

An honorable mention should also go to Jim Plunkett for his efforts in this category. In 1974, he managed the incredible feat of throwing 25 interceptions in just 14 games while only throwing eight touchdowns! 

Except for Bailey Zappe, the Patriots have got some gunslingers in their quarterback room, but none of them will have the opportunity to throw enough passes to break this record in 2024. 

More Patriots coverage: