History Lesson: Patriots In The AFC Championship Game
BOSTON (CBS) -- In what is becoming an annual tradition in New England, the Patriots are heading to yet another AFC Championship Game.
The Pats are off to their unprecedented seventh straight AFC title bout and 14th overall in franchise history, as they'll play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
As we count down to kickoff, let's take a look back at the 13 other times the Patriots have played in the AFC Championship:
1/12/1986 at Miami -- Patriots 31, Dolphins 14
After an 11-5 regular season and wins over the Jets in the Wild Card round and Raiders in the Divisional round, the Patriots pulled off a big upset in a rainy Miami to punch their first trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history. New England rushed for 255 yards, with Craig James accounting for 105 of those yards, and turned six Dolphins turnovers into 24 points in their first-ever conference championship appearance.
Three short Tony Eason touchdown passes had the Patriots up 24-7 heading into the fourth quarter, but Dan Marino turned a New England fumble into seven points when he tossed a touchdown to Tony Nathan to cut their lead to 10. Miami looked poised to make the game even closer, but another Dolphins fumble -- their fourth of the day -- led to a nine-play drive by the Patriots, capped off with a one-yard touchdown run by Mosi Tatupu to seal it.
Miami tried to mount a final comeback bid, but Marino was picked off by Raymond Clayborn in the end zone and the Pats were off to the Super Bowl. It broke a streak of 18 straight losses by the Patriots in Miami.
Things did not go as well two weeks later in Louisiana, as the Pats were crushed by the Chicago Bears 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.
1/12/1997 vs. Jacksonville -- Patriots 20, Jaguars 6
Foxboro Stadium played host to its first conference championship, welcoming former Boston College head coach Tom Coughlin and his Jacksonville Jaguars to town for the 1996 AFC Championship. There was actually a power outage just before halftime, but there was no outage for the Pats defense against the Jags.
They forced four turnovers, including three straight on Jacksonville's final three possessions of the game. An 87-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Otis Smith sealed the victory for the Pats.
Unfortunately for New England, they lost to the Green Bay Packers 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI.
1/27/2002 at Pittsburgh -- Patriots 24, Steelers 17
This is the one that got it all started. Following their dramatic Snow Bowl victory over the Oakland Raiders a week prior, the Patriots went into Pittsburgh and stunned the top-seeded Steelers.
Troy Brown got things going late in the first quarter, returning a punt 55 yards for a touchdown to give the Pats a 7-0 lead. Tom Brady suffered a sprained ankle in the second quarter of the game, so it was Drew Bledsoe who completed the victory in his first action since being knocked out by Mo Lewis in Week 2. On his first drive of the game, Bledsoe found David Patten for an 11-yard score to put New England up 14-3 at half.
The Pats took a 21-3 lead early in the third quarter when they returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, and though the Steelers made a push late in the game, the Patriots defense picked off Kordell Stewart twice in the final three minutes to seal the victory.
The Pats were off to their third Super Bowl in franchise history and won for the first time with a dramatic 20-17 win over the St. Louis Rams and "The Greatest Show On Turf."
1/18/2004 vs. Indianapolis -- Patriots 24, Colts 14
Peyton Manning and the Colts had just scored 38 points in Kansas City the week before, but the Co-MVP decided to throw a bunch of passes to the Patriots in the 2003 AFC Championship Game. The Patriots picked off Manning four times, including three by Ty Law, as the New England secondary frustrated Indy's dynamic passing attack all afternoon. They bullied them so much that Colts players complained to the league offices after the game, prompting some rule changes.
The Patriots offense wasn't much better, but they got five field goals from Adam Vinatieri to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years. The Patriots claimed their second Super Bowl title a few weeks later with a win over the Carolina Panthers.
1/23/2005 at Pittsburgh -- Patriots 41, Steelers 27
Rookie Ben Roethlisberger and his 15-1 Steelers were riding high entering the 2004 AFC title game, winners of 14 straight. But with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the Patriots defense had their way with an opponent once again, as New England turned four Pittsburgh turnovers into 24 points.
Eugene Wilson picked off Roethlisberger's first pass of the game, which turned into three points for the Pats, and Jerome Bettis fumbled on Pittsburgh's next drive. Tom Brady took advantage of that miscue with a 60-yard touchdown to Deion Branch, who finished the game with 116 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rodney Harrison had an 87-yard pick six just before halftime to give New England a 24-3 lead.
Pittsburgh cut it to 31-20 early in the fourth quarter, but after a Vinatieri field goal padded the lead, Roethlisberger was picked off again by Wilson. The Pats took five more minutes off the clock with a drive that ended on a 23-yard touchdown by Branch on a reverse.
Branch and Brown waved their own towels on the sideline to mock Pittsburgh fans, and the Pats were off to their second straight Super Bowl. Two weeks later they'd beat another Pennsylvania team, besting the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 for their third Super Bowl in four seasons.
1/21/2007 at Indianapolis -- Colts 38, Patriots 34
You may have noticed the Brady-Belichick Patriots hadn't lost an AFC title game at this point. They really shouldn't have been in this game, but thanks to a gigantic goof by San Diego's Marlon McCree in the Divisional Round, they had the chance to eliminate the Colts for the third time in four seasons.
Things looked great for the first 30 minutes, as the Pats took a 21-6 lead into the locker room. But Manning and the Colts came storming back in the second half, mounting an 18-point comeback -- the largest ever in a conference championship tilt.
Stephen Gotskowski put the Pats up 34-31 with a 43-yard field goal with 3:53 to go, but Manning put together a Brady-esque drive for the win. Indy moved the ball 70 yards in just 19 seconds, capped off by a three-yard touchdown run by Joseph Addai with a minute left to give them their first lead of the afternoon. Brady and the Pats had one final shot, but he was picked off by Marlin Jackson with 17 seconds left.
It was a big missed opportunity for the Patriots, as Manning won the first Super Bowl of his career two weeks later against the Chicago Bears.
1/20/2008 vs. San Diego -- Patriots 21, Chargers 12
After that embarrassing loss in Indy, the Pats went out and acquired Randy Moss and Wes Welker in the offseason. They dominated all season and were a perfect 17-0 when the San Diego Chargers came to town for the AFC title match.
The Patriots were a far cry from the offensive juggernaut they were in the regular season against San Diego, as Brady was picked off three times, but the defense held the Chargers to just four field goals throughout the game. With New England holding on to a 14-12 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, Brady capped off a 67-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown to Welker. After forcing a Chargers punt, the Patriots iced the game with a 15-play drive that ate up the final 9:13 on the clock to become the first team to start a season 18-0.
We'll just move on rather than discuss what happened two weeks later.
1/22/2012 vs. Baltimore -- Patriots 23, Ravens 20
Following a brief hiatus from the NFL's final four, the Patriots were hosting the 2011 conference championship after finishing as the AFC's No. 1 seed with a 13-3 regular season record.
Brady didn't have a great game, throwing a pair of interceptions, but with the Ravens up 20-16 early in the fourth quarter and the Pats with the ball on the one-yard line, he called his own number and flew (somewhat) gracefully over the Baltimore defensive line and into the end zone to give New England the lead.
But Brady and the offense were on the sideline for the most exciting plays at the end of the game, as Lee Evans dropped a go-ahead touchdown in the end zone and Billy Cundiff shanked a potential game-tying field goal for Baltimore.
The Patriots escaped with another AFC title, but once again fell to the New York Giants in the big game.
1/20/2013 vs. Baltimore -- Ravens 28, Patriots 13
Unlike the previous year's AFC Championship, there was no magic for Brady and the Patriots against the Ravens.
After heading into the locker room with a 13-7 lead, the Patriots were shut out in the second half. Brady was only sacked twice during the game but was under constant pressure, and the Ravens picked him off on New England's last two drives as Baltimore avenged their loss from the previous season.
The Ravens went on to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.
1/19/2014 at Denver -- Broncos 26, Patriots 16
The Patriots pulled off a shocking comeback win against the Broncos earlier in the season at Gillette, but the AFC title game was held in Peyton's new home in Denver.
It was never really a game either, as the Patriots started with three straight punts and mustered just a field goal in the first half. Denver took a 20-3 lead midway through the third quarter on a Manning-to-Demaryius Thomas touchdown, and the Pats didn't find the end zone until early in the fourth quarter. By then it was too late, and for the second straight season the Patriots were one win short of going to the Super Bowl.
1/18/2015 vs. Indianapolis -- Patriots 45, Colts 7
The Patriots only led 17-7 at halftime. Then things got silly.
New England scored on their first four possessions of the second half, forcing three turnovers along the way, en route to the most lopsided AFC title game in 25 years. The Patriots had the ball for 15 more minutes than Indianapolis, Brady tossed three touchdowns and LeGarrette Blount rushed for three more en route to the blowout victory.
The Pats were off to the Super Bowl, but the Colts cried foul with allegations that Brady and company were partaking in some funny business with the footballs, thus beginning the 18-month drama known as DeflateGate.
It didn't seem to bother the Patriots too much, as they went on to beat the Seattle Seahawks in one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever (until a few years later).
1/24/2016 at Denver -- Broncos 20, Patriots 18
The Patriots lost four of their final six games in the regular season, and had to travel to Denver for the AFC Championship Game.
Not much went right for the Patriots in the Mile High City. Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point following New England's first touchdown, after hitting every one of his extra points dating back to the final week of his rookie season in 2006. Brady spent most of the day looking into the Denver sky, getting knocked down 20 times and sacked four times. He was picked off twice throughout the game and the Pats turned the ball over on downs twice in the fourth quarter.
And when the Patriots had a chance to tie things with just seconds left, Brady missed a wide open Rob Gronkowski on a two-point conversion, instead getting picked off as he went for a double-covered Julian Edelman.
It was an ugly and frustrating game, as a taped-together Peyton Manning threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns. It was even worse two weeks later when Manning and the Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
1/22/2017 vs. Pittsburgh -- Patriots 36, Steelers 17
The Pats were the top seed after a 14-2 regular season and back to hosting the conference title game. The Steelers came to Gillette Stadium looking to end their woes against the Patriots, but New England would not be denied a trip to the Super Bowl for the seventh time in 16 seasons.
A 17-9 game at half turned into a Patriots rout over the final 30 minutes. Brady threw for 384 yards (a franchise-best in the playoffs) and three touchdowns in what ended up being a 36-17 blowout win. Chris Hogan was his favorite target catching nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including a 34-yarder on a flea flicker.
They had a little more trouble with the Falcons at the start of Super Bowl LI, but we all know how that one ended.
You can catch Sunday's Patriots-Jaguars AFC Championship Game on WBZ-TV -- the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with a special 90-minute edition of Patriots GameDay, kickoff is set for 3:05 p.m., and after the game tune in to myTV38 for all the reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter.
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