September 21, 2017

50th Anniversary Minute – the 1985 Patriots

by Brendon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff
October 14, 2009

1986 was a magical year on the Boston sports scene. Three of its four professional sports teams reached the championship round in their respective sports. The Patriots got Beantown off to its historic calendar year with an incredible magic carpet ride through the regular season and an unprecedented run through the playoffs.

Playing in their 25th season of professional football, the New England/Boston Patriots started the season with a 26-20 win over Green Bay. Then the team met Chicago, a team they would see again, and went on a skid that saw them lost three of their next four. In the process, supposed rising-star QB Tony Eason looked horrid behind center. In Eason’s first six games he threw 11 interceptions before suffering a shoulder injury in Week Six against Buffalo.

The old gun slinger, Pats hero (remember ‘76 and ‘78), Steve Grogan, took over and the Pats ship took off. After a 14-3 win over Buffalo to go 3-3, Grogan, a player many in the media and in the stands felt was over the hill, led the Pats on a six game win streak. That run included a 20-13 win over the division leading Jets. In that game, Grogan scored the winning TD on a naked bootleg. The Pats also went on to beat Miami 17-13 with the Pats scoring on a memorable flea flicker to get within a touchdown. Grogan then led the Patriots on a 10-play, 80-yard game winning drive.

However. three weeks later, the win streak came to a screeching halt. Not only did the Pats lose to the Jets, but they also lost Grogan to a broken leg.

Eason, playing much better than at the start, was back under center as New England went 2-2 over their next four games. They entered the final week of the season needing a win over Cincinnati to clinch a Wild Card berth. The game was blacked out on local TV, but the Pats ensured their fans would see them again with a 34-23 win.

That, friends, would just be the beginning. New England would start the playoffs in the Meadowlands with a 26 – 14 thrashing of the Jets. The most memorable play of that game was Johnny Remebert’s 15-yard fumble return to put N.E. ahead 23-7.

The next week the Pats exacted revenge on an old-time nemesis with a 27-20 win over the Raiders in L.A. The Pats “D” forced six turnovers and Jim Bowman scored the winning TD when he recovered a Raiders fumble in the end zone. The game will always be remembered for the thuggish antics of Raiders Matt Millen and Howie Long. Millen swung his helmet at N.E. owner Billy Sullivan after the game and opened a gash over Sullivan’s face.

The bloody win led the Pats to another place that had caused them several sleepless nights, Miami, Florida. N.E. hadn’t won in their last 18 trips to South Beach, but with their first Super Bowl appearance hanging in the balance, the Pats put in their finest effort of the season. New England forced six turnovers, bringing their playoff total to 14, and Eason threw three TD’s in a 31-14 win.

What was your favorite memory of that year? What do you remember most about the playoff run?


  • Tony Eason 10 starts 2156, 11-17,
  • Steve Grogan 6 starts (5-1), 1311, 7-5,
  • Craig James -1227 yards (9th NFL), 5 TD, 27-360-2
  • Irving Fryar 39-670-7; 2 Punt Return TD (14.1 average) (1st)
  • Stanley Morgan 39-760-5, 19.5 (6th NFL)
  • Tony Franklin 112 points (8th NFL)
  • Andre Tippet 16.5 sacks (2nd)
  • Fred Marion 7 INT (T-4th)

All Pro

Irving Fryar (WR), Brian Holloway (LT), John Hannah (LG), Andre Tippet (LOLB), Steve Nelson (LILB), Raymond Clayborn (RCB), Fred Marion (FS)

Pro Bowl

Craig James (FB), Fryar, Holloway, Hannah, Tippet, Nelson, Clayborn, Marion


  1. Is this where I share my Dad’s theory that they should have won that SB?

    I am loving these write-ups!!

  2. Chris Warner says:

    I remember wishing that Grogan had started that Super Bowl. Eason went turtle from the first snap.

    This year is why Grogan remains a hero in my eyes (always loved the naked bootleg). What he lacked in talent he made up for with brains and heart.

    Yes, Millen and Long were thugs, but don’t tell me Billy Sullivan didn’t talk trash:

  3. What I remember most about that team are the defense’s uncanny ability to force turnovers and the way the offensive line just took charge in the running game, especially during their playoff run (except for the Super Bowl of course).

    That may have been the best secondary and pass rush in Pats’ history. They had 50+ sacks with the trio of Garin Veris, Andre Tippett and Don Blackmon providing constant heat on opposing QBs, and the secondary picked off about two dozen passes that year, not including playoffs. Lippett and Clayborn were a dynamic duo at CB, and I don’t think the Pats have ever had a better ballhawking saftey than Fred Marion, who seemed to come up with big INT after big INT that year (yes, Rodney Harrison was a better overall player at safety, but Marion was a pure ballhawk, no doubt about it).

    It’s unfortunate that they ran into such a juggernaut in the Super Bowl. People like to blame Eason a lot for what happened but the reality is that the defense, which had played so well that season, did not have a very good game either. The Bears were just clicking on all cylinders that day.

    That team was relatively young and could have accomplished a lot more in the years to come, but injuries short-circuited the careers of guys like Blackmon, Veris, Craig James and Ken Sims, and of course, the Sullivans went bankrupt in the late 80s too.

  4. It wasn’t Billy Sullivan Millen drew blood from that day, it was his son, Patrick Sullivan, who was the GM of the Patriots at the time.


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