Monday, January 18, 2010

Greatest Moments in Foxboro Stadium History

AP Photo

Take a look back and relive the memories that came from Foxboro Stadium.

The Stadium first opened in August of 1971 and was named Schaefer Stadium. Naming rights were sold to Anheuser-Busch in 1983, who named the stadium Sullivan Stadium in honor of the family that owned the Patriots. Once the Sullivan family sold its majority ownership, the stadium was renamed Foxboro Stadium.

At the turn of the new millenium the stadium was deemed outdated. Gillete Stadium opened in 2002 and Foxboro was knocked down. Today the Patriots Place mall stands where the stadium used to be.

Opening of the stadium

The opening of any stadium is special. No matter how good or bad the team is or what the stadium looks like, having a brand new home is an exciting time. Much like a family moving into a new house, it is the place where—one hopes at least—great memories will be made for many years to come.

After four different “home” field in ten years—Boston University Field, Harvard Stadium, Fenway Park, and Boston College Alumni Stadium—the Patriots had a permanent place to call their own. What was nice about the stadium was that there was no public funding from the city of Foxborogh or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. That was also a problem. Without the public funding, the stadium was built quickly and without many major amenities of luxuries.

Before the first ever game played there, an exhibition match between the Patriots and New York Giants, a “flush-off” – all the toilets were flushed at the same time—was conducted to make sure the plumbing could handle the greatest possible stress.

Beginning of the Holy War

The stadium was also used for Boston College football games.

On September 15, 1975 Boston College hosted Notre Dame. This game started the rivalry between the “Eagles” and “Fighting Irish”. It was dubbed the “Holy War” by the media because it was the matchup of the only two Catholic Universities that compete in Division I-A football. Notre Dame won the first meeting between the two teams 17-3.

Although the schools wouldn’t square off again until 1983 and the rivalry matchup wouldn’t become an annual tradition until 1992, this game was the start of it all.

1978 AFC Divisional Playoffs vs. Houston Oilers

Finishing the season 11-5 and as AFC East Champions the Patriots were rewarded with a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They hosted the Divisional Playoffs against the Houston Oilers, the first ever home playoff game for the franchise.

Head Coach Chuck Fairbanks, who had been suspended the week before for negotiating with the University of Colorado, was reinstated. It might have been a bad move because his players had lost faith and respect for him.

There were no highlights for the Patriots, who lost 31-14, but the game is still a memorable moment because it was the first home playoff game the Patriots earned, certainly a milestone.

12/22/85: Must-win season finale against the Cininnati Bengals

The Patriots were still alive for a spot in the 1985 playoffs but were in a must-win game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

New England rushed the ball for 281 yards and clinched the game just after the two-minute warning when Robert Weathers broke through the line on fourth-and-one for a 42 yard touchdown. The Patriots won the game 11-5 and earned the final wild card spot over the Denver Broncos thanks to the common opponents tiebreaker.

New England would win their first three games in the playoffs before losing to the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.

1994 World Cup

Hosting a World Cup is an honor for a country as well as for the select cities and stadiums that are chosen to receive games.

In 1994 the U.S. hosted the World Cup and six games were played at Foxboro Stadium. The game with the largest attendance was a 4-0 Argentina win over Greece in a Group D matchup. They hosted a quarter-final matchup between eventual runners-up Italy and Spain. Foxboro Stadium was a part of the most profitable World Cup in the tournament’s history.

Foxboro Stadium was lucky enough to also host five matches in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, including one U.S. group stage match against North Korea.

Concerts and Pink Floyd's final tour

Foxboro Stadium hosted many concerts for some of the world's most popular bands.

Paul McCartney, Elton John, hometown favorites Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, U2, and this year's Super Bowl halftime show band The Who have all played in the stadium.

Foxboro Stadium was also lucky enough to be one of the stops on Pink Floyd's Division Bell Tour, supporting the release of the album with the same name. The tour was the band's last as well as being the last time Pink Floyd performed live until they played at Live 8 in 2005.

1996 AFC Conference Championship vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

It was only the third playoff game the Patriots had ever hosted and first AFC Championship game the team hosted. A win would send New England to the Super Bowl. The opponent was the second-year Jacksonville Jaguars.

New England started their first possession on the four-yard line thanks to Jacksonville’s botched snap on a punt attempt. Curtis Martin scored a one-yard touchdown giving the Patriots the early lead. They would never give it up. The final score was 20-6 and the Patriots were off to face the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

Also memorable about the game was a power outage at the stadium just before halftime. Not only was power knocked out at Foxboro Stadium, but most of the surrounding community as well.

9/15/97: Bill Parcells return to Foxboro

Fresh after taking the Patriots to only their second Super Bowl in franchise history in 1996, Head Coach Bill Parcells left the team over disputes with owner Bob Kraft about player personnel decisions. He took the same job with rival New York Jets.

Parcells first return to Foxboro Stadium came in week three on Sunday Night Football. Already starting with a great headline, the game was full of drama.

The lead was tied or changed teams seven times throughout the course of the game. With 16 seconds left, the Jets had a chance to win the game but John Hall's field goal attempt was blocked and the game went to overtime, where Adam Vinatieri successfully kicked a 34-yard attempt to win the game and keep the Patriots undefeated for the time being.

Curtis Martin ran wild for 199 yards and a touchdown.

9/23/01: First game after September 11, 2001/Beginning of the Tom Brady era

It was an emotional time in this country's history.

Twelve days after the terrorist attacks on the United States the Patriots once again squared off against the rival Jets, located near the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred.

In the fourth quarter, Jets linebacker Mo Lewis tackled starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Blood filled Bledsoe's chest and he was hospitalized. Tom Brady finished the game and took over as starter.

While the Patriots lost that game 10-3, fans witnessed the beginning of a new era. Brady went on to win 11 of the 14 games he started that season and led the team to its first Super Bowl victory, and the first of three total.

"Tuck Rule" Game

The final game played in Foxboro Stadium may be its most memorable.

For starters, the 2001 season AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders was played in a driving snow storm.

The end of the game was drama at its best.

Trailing 13-10 with less than two minutes to plays the Patriots had the ball. Tom Brady dropped back to pass and seemingly fumbled the ball when hit by Charles Woodson, which the Raiders then recovered, which could have sealed the ball game.

However, the play was reviewed and the referee, Walt Coleman, ruled that Brady’s arm was moving forward and he was in the process of tucking the football back into his body—note that it had not yet been tucked—and therefore the play was an incomplete pass, not a fumble. The rule, as well as the game, is now nicknamed “the tuck rule/game”.

With New England given another chance, Brady drove the Pats into field goal territory and Adam Vinatieri, kicking into the wind and snow, booted a line-drive 45-yard field goal attempt through the uprights to tie the game and send it into overtime. Starting with the ball in overtime, the Patriots drove down the field and Vinatieri produced more magic, making a 23-yard field goal to win the game.

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