For Patriots fans, State Farm Stadium holds unforgettable memories -- from euphoria to pain

Dear State Farm Stadium,

Writing a letter like this might be considered odd to some. But after everything that has happened, why not?

It is delivered on behalf of those who follow the New England Patriots because they have established a memorable connection with you.

They don’t see you often. Monday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) will be the fourth visit to State Farm Stadium (or University of Phoenix Stadium, as it was called until 2018) for one of coach Bill Belichick’s Patriots teams.

But each of the previous three has produced such unforgettable memories that just seeing your shiny silver exterior, and cardinal-red seats around the glistening green grass rolled in from outside, sparks real feelings for them.

Feelings of excruciating pain.

Feelings of euphoria.

They are the types of feelings that sports -- perhaps more than anything else -- provides.

You opened in 2006 in suburban Glendale, and your allure is as a sparkling host for Super Bowls, concerts and NCAA basketball tournaments. That begins to explain how you first met the Patriots on Feb. 3, 2008.

This was supposed to be a history-making moment -- the 18-0 Patriots against the heavy-underdog New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. It was going to be the NFL’s first undefeated campaign since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Many figured it was a fait accompli.

But behind the scenes, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was telling some close to him that he had concerns about whether his team had enough gas left in the tank. They had taken everyone’s best shot up to that point and survived. Did they have one more in them?

Then Belichick came out for the game in a never-seen-before red hoodie. The superstitious folks worried it was bad luck.

Of course, you remember the game. In crunch time, Giants quarterback Eli Manning escaped pressure to fire a ball downfield, receiver David Tyree caught it between his hand and helmet, and most of the nation exulted as New England hearts were broken in the 17-14 Super Bowl loss.

It took many in New England a long, long time to start reading about the Patriots again after that. Some called it a self-imposed blackout period. Too much pain to revisit.

They were expecting to see you again in 2012 for a Patriots-Cardinals regular-season game -- the team’s first in Arizona against the Cardinals since playing at Sun Devil Stadium in 2004. But the NFL threw a curveball by resetting the rotating scheduling formula, which moved that game to Foxborough, Massachusetts.

So the second visit, on Feb, 1, 2015, actually turned out to be another Super Bowl, XLIX, an epic game against the Seattle Seahawks. Remember, at that time, it had been 10 years since the Patriots had last won a Super Bowl. And here they were, returning under your roof for the first time since that devastating loss to the Giants in 2007.

That was the night Patriots quarterback Tom Brady engineered one of his trademark fourth-quarter comebacks against the Seahawks' vaunted Legion of Boom defense, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler introduced himself to the world with a game-saving interception, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll forever invited second-guessing by green-lighting the decision to have quarterback Russell Wilson pass at the goal line instead of handing off to powerful running back Marshawn Lynch.

Never will we forget how your walls were shaking at that moment. That game remains the most-watched Super Bowl ever.

Talk about two extremes in New England.

The Patriots don’t have any players left on their roster from the loss to the Giants. Captains Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty are the only ones still around from the win over the Seahawks. McCourty shared his appreciation this week, saying you will always be special to him because it’s where he won his first Super Bowl.

As for the Patriots’ third visit to see you, "intrigue" is the word that comes to mind. It was a Sunday night, national spotlight, and the Patriots were opening the 2016 season against the Cardinals without Brady, who was serving an NFL-imposed four-game suspension for Deflategate. How would backup Jimmy Garoppolo fare in his place?

In the hours leading up to kickoff, there was an iconic moment of Belichick walking onto the field with his sons, Steven and Brian, who are assistants on his staff. They looked around, admired you, smiled, and allowed themselves to take a brief walk down Memory Lane.

Then, later that night, they were part of another indelible memory in a down-to-the-wire 23-21 win. Garoppolo played great, with a pinpoint 37-yard touchdown pass to receiver Chris Hogan along the left sideline to open the scoring. That play served up an immediate statement that the moment wasn’t too big for the quarterback.

Now everyone is looking ahead to this Monday night game at State Farm Stadium in Arizona with Mac Jones under center for the Patriots.

On the surface, it seems like a ho-hum matchup -- the 4-8 Cardinals are enduring a surprisingly disappointing season; the 6-6 Patriots are hanging on to slim playoff hopes.

But if history is any indication, you might have something special in store.

Win or lose, you know we'll be watching.