FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In the moments after the New England Patriots' 27-26 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday, my instant reaction was that we had just witnessed one of the team’s best regular-season games in the Bill Belichick era.
What struck me was the high level of energy in the stadium from start to finish, the numerous momentum swings, a handful of you-don’t-often-see-them individual plays or coaching decisions, and a dramatic ending.
That got me to thinking about the best regular-season games in Belichick’s tenure (2000-present), just to see if perhaps I got a little carried away in the moment.
My top five:
1. Dec. 29, 2007 -- Patriots 38, Giants 35 -- An easy choice for me. This felt like a Super Bowl atmosphere in the regular season finale in the Meadowlands as the Patriots were going for 16-0. The Tom Brady to Randy Moss back-to-back long bombs -- the first incomplete, the second helping both players set records for most touchdown passes/touchdown catches in a season -- was simply off the charts.
2. Nov. 30, 2003 -- Patriots 38, Colts 34 -- Indianapolis had the ball on the New England 2-yard line with 40 seconds remaining, and couldn’t punch it in. It was the goal-line stand of all goal-line stands, with Willie McGinest surging off the left edge and tackling Edgerrin James on fourth down. The Patriots led 31-10 at one point and then survived a ferocious comeback. Lots of drama.
3. Nov. 15, 2015 -- Patriots 27, Giants 26 -- A 54-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to win it with six seconds remaining was the most clutch kick of his 10-year career and a dramatic ending. Meanwhile, the fiery yet respectful 1-on-1 matchup of Odell Beckham Jr. and Malcolm Butler reflected the way these two teams went at each other.
4. Nov. 3, 2003 -- Patriots 30, Broncos 26 -- The visiting Patriots trailed 24-23 with 2:49 remaining and had the ball at their own 1-yard line when Bill Belichick called for snapper Lonie Paxton to rifle the ball off the upright for an intentional safety. It was unconventional and effective. The Patriots then forced a three-and-out, and quarterback Tom Brady found David Givens for the game-winning 18-yard touchdown.
5. Nov. 24, 2013 -- Patriots 34, Broncos 31 (OT) -- Fall behind 24-0 at the half to a Peyton Manning-led team and it’s usually over. But playing their best 30 minutes of the season (and an additional 13:02 in overtime), the Patriots roared back to record the improbable win. The poor first half almost kept this game off the list from a perspective of a solid start-to-finish game, but the final 43 minutes were so impressive it trumped other options.