by Brandon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff
September 30, 2009
One name can sum up the 1976 season; Ben Dreith.
The name conjures up thoughts that evoke nightmarish memories to Patriots fans that were alive and witnessed his epic miscall first hand, as well as those who have had the legend passed down from their forefathers.
Yes sir, 1976 indeed was a special year in New England. Despite the painful memories of Mr. Dreith and those dastardly Oakland Raiders, 1976 is a year that is fondly remembered in New England.
A year after the team went a dismal 3-11, the ’76 season didn’t exactly start with a bang. In the opening week of the season the Pats were downed by the Baltimore Colts 27-13 in a game that saw starting quarterback Steve Grogan throw an unimpressive four picks. However, the next week the Pats stormed back to crush Miami and kick start one of the more impressive win streaks in franchise history.
New England followed up the win over the Phish with a comeback win at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Trailing 20-9 heading into the fourth, Grogan threw a 38-yard TD pass to tight end Russ Francis and a 58-yard score to Darryl Stingley for a 23-20 lead. Grogan carried the mail from six yards out for the next score. The next week Grogan threw three more TD’s and ran in another in a 48-17 shellacking of the Raiders. New England would play tremendous football the rest of the way and would finish the season by winning their final six games.
The Patriots finished the season 11-3 and reserved a date with Oakland in the Divisional round in what would be turn into one of the most memorable and controversial playoff games in history. After Jess Phillips scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter, N.E. led 21-10. Of course we all know what happened as the Raiders came back and stole the game late in the fourth. Along with a phantom roughing the passer called on Sugar Bear Hamilton, Russ Francis had his nose broken and there were several other questionable calls.
The fighting Patriots of ‘76 may not have made the Super Bowl, but they will always be one of the most beloved Patriots teams of all-time.
What are your memories of that fateful playoff game? How about the season in general?
- Steve Grogan 1903 yards, 18TD (T-4th in NFL), 20 INT (2nd), 60.6 rating; 60-397, 12 rushing TD (4th); 13 total TD (3rd)
- Sam Cunningham 824 yards, 3TD
- Andy Johnson 699, 6 TD; 29-343 4 TD
- Darryl Stingley 17-370, 4
- Russ Francis 26-367, 3
- Mike Haynes 2 PR TD (2nd); 8INT (3rd)
Russ Francis (TE), Leon Gray (LT), John Hannah (LG), Mike Haynes (RCB)
Francis, Gray, Hannah, Haynes
Defensive Rookie of the Year