Worst moments in New England Patriots history

David Tyree’s catch in Super Bowl XLII was key to the Giants 17-14 victory and put a stop to the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season. (AP)
David Tyree’s catch in Super Bowl XLII was key to the Giants 17-14 victory and put a stop to the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season. (AP)

What are the worst moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).

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5. 2011 Divisional Round Playoff Loss to Jets

It was a weird week leading up to this game. The month before, foot fetish videos of Rex Ryan and his wife were uncovered, and Bill Belichick, who always tells his players to say nothing that can be construed as bulletin board material, told his players to zip it. Wes Welker ignored Belichick, making numerous foot references during his news conference that week, and was benched for the opening offensive series. With or without Welker, and with Ryan at his Tom Brady game-scheming best, the Jets clogged the middle of the field, disrupting the timing of and generally making difficult the crossing routes New England favors, and made Brady as uncomfortable as possible. The Patriots had gone 14-2, were the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and lost at home to the braggadocious Jets, 28-21.

4. The Locker Room Incident

One of the ugliest incidents any female reporter has endured. On Sept. 17, 1990, Lisa Olson, then a reporter with the Boston Herald, was sexually harassed by three Patriots players, with tight end Zeke Mowatt the ring leader. An NFL investigation found that Mowatt, Michael Timpson and Robert Perryman “degraded and humiliated” Olson, and deliberately exposed themselves to her. Despite the abhorrent behavior – it was also determined no team official did anything to stop the incident – the NFL’s punishment for all involved amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist: the Patriots were fined just $50,000 and the three players each received nominal fines as well; none were suspended. But Olson, after receiving death threats, was taken off the beat and eventually moved out of the country.

3. Darryl Stingley paralyzed by Jack Tatum

On Aug. 12, 1978, Darryl Stingley was not yet 27 years old, a former first-round pick coming off the best season of his career with the Patriots. Jack Tatum was a Raiders free safety so feared he was called “The Assassin.” And in a meaningless preseason game against Oakland, Tatum drilled Stingley as he was outstretched, trying to pull in a pass. It was a hard hit, but not considered illegal – Tatum was not flagged. Stingley crumpled to the grass, unable to move. A broken neck rendered him a quadriplegic. Later in life, Singley would regain the use of his right arm, which allowed him to operate his motorized wheelchair, but he was confined to that wheelchair for nearly 30 years before his death in April 2007.

2. Spygate and Deflategate

These two are almost inextricably linked, because you can make the argument that without the first, the second is nothing but a footnote. Early in the 2007 season, after a game against their rivals, the New York Jets, coached by their former defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, the Patriots were accused of taping the Jets’ sideline to see the hand signals used by coaches. It was against NFL rules, and the Patriots were fined heavily – the loss of a first-round pick and $750,000 between the franchise and head coach Bill Belichick. But some teams believed Roger Goodell went easy on his friend, New England owner Robert Kraft, who had helped him get the job as commissioner. So years later, when Tom Brady was found to have possibly known that air was possibly intentionally taken out of footballs, Goodell reportedly used it as a “make-up call” to placate owners still angry about how Spygate was handled. By the NFL rulebook, altering footballs carries a baseline fine of $25,000, but Goodell docked the Patriots another first-round pick, $1 million, and suspended Brady for four games.

1. David Tyree’s helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII

The Patriots arrived in Arizona in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLII with history on their minds; despite Spygate, despite the weight of an ever-growing target on their collective back, they’d made it to the desert unscathed: 18-0, having posted the NFL’s first 16-0 regular season. The underdog New York Giants, whom New England beat in the regular-season finale, were supposed to just be happy to be there. Except, well, they weren’t willing to just roll over.

Late in the low-scoring game, with New England leading 14-10, the Giants faced third-and-5 from their own 44, and the Patriots’ defense got to Eli Manning quickly – but were never able to bring him down, and despite Jarvis Green getting a good grip on Manning’s jersey, which may have constituted “in the grasp,” the play was not ended. Manning stayed on his feet and chucked the ball up toward the middle of the field. David Tyree – who’d had just four catches all season – jumped for the ball and pinned it to his helmet, holding on even as New England safety Rodney Harrison tried desperately to pry it away. Harrison couldn’t, and four plays later, the Giants scored the go-ahead touchdown with just 35 seconds remaining. The Patriots couldn’t get in field-goal range, ending their bid at a perfect season. All told, the Tyree catch is arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history, though not if you ask Patriots fans.

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