September 20, 2017

50th Anniversary Minute – the 1996 Patriots

By Brendon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff

It has often been said, give a good coach three years and he can turn around any team. In New England that was certainly true.

terry-glennIn 1996, in his third year on the sidelines, The Tuna led New England to its second ever Super Bowl appearance. Led by one of the teams most balanced offensive attacks in recent memory, the Patriots rebounded from an 0-2 start to win their third AFC East title. All Pro Drew Bledsoe found himself atop several passing categories with a slew of receivers including rookie Terry Glenn and all-world tight end Ben Coates. At running back was Curtis Martin who gained 1152 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.

There were several key wins during the year, including an overtime win over Jacksonville when a rookie kicker by the name of Adam Vinatieri booted his first ever game-winning field goal. There was also the memorable final game of the regular season when New England found themselves down 22-0 to the Giants. A Vinatieri field goal cut the score to 22-3 with just one quarter to play. Then the Pats went on a remarkable stretch. Drew Bledsoe hit rookie Terry Glenn for a 26-yard score and Dave Meggett returned a punt 60 yards to cut the deficit to 22-17. Ben Coates’ 13-yard TD put New England provided the game-winner and the teams 11th win.

The Patriots drew Pittsburgh, the defending AFC Champions in the divisional round. Playing in a fog so thick it was hard to see the numbers on the field. The weather though, was just as effective as the Steelers defense. The Pats wasted little time as a screen pass to Glenn set up a 2-yard run from Martin and a 7-0 lead. Keith Byars scored on a screen pass and Martin ripped off a 78-yard run to put the game out of reach by the half.

In the Championship game the Pats got Jacksonville, who had upset the top-seeded Broncos. With the unexpected home game, the Pats defense rose to the challenge and picked off Mark Brunell twice and recovered three fumbles in a 20-3 win. Leading 13-6 in the fourth Otis “My Main Man” Smith snared a 47-yard pick-six to ice the game.

What were your favorite memories of that year? Was it Shannon Sharpe calling the President in a Pats loss? How about the draft day drama with Parcells? Or the draft that produced Glenn, Lawyer Milloy and Tedy Bruschi? How about the Parcells drama at the end of the year?


  • Drew Bledsoe 373 (1st NFL)-623 (1st), 4086 (3rd), 27 (T-3rd)-15
  • Curtis Martin 316 (7th)-1152 (9th), 14 (2nd), 46-333, 3, 17 total TD (2nd)
  • Terry Glenn (Rookie) 90 (T-7th)-1132, 6
  • Ben Coates 62-682, 9 (T-9th)
  • Shawn Jefferson 50-771, 4
  • Adam Vinatieri 27-35, 39-42
  • Ted Johnson 87-28
  • Willie Clay 4 INT
  • Willie McGinest 9.5 sacks

All Pro
Drew Bledsoe (QB), Curtis Marin (RB), Terry Glenn (WR), Ben Coats (TE), Bruce Armstrong (LT), Dave Meggett (KR)

Pro Bowl
Bledsoe, Martin, Coates, Armstrong, Willie McGinest (RDE), Meggett


  1. I attended the regular season game against Jacksonville. The Pats were all over them in the first half. I think they were up 22-0 or something, and my friends and I were actually talking about leaving after the 3rd quarter to beat the traffic. Then Brunell hit a Hail Mary for a TD on the last play of the first half to make it 22-7, and then things got scary. Jacksonville probably should have won in regulation–they had a pick-six late in the game called back for an illegal block below the waist penalty, and then Brunell’s SECOND Hail Mary completion of the game fell about a half-yard short of the goal line on the last play of the 4th quarter, which allowed the Pats to escape with a regulation tie and get the game into OT. They finally moved the ball into scoring range on their first OT possession and Vinatieri–who at the time was struggling after missing four FGs in a loss in Buffalo in Week 2–nailed the winner.

    That team was good, but man, did they ever have some luck that season too. I remember the game against the Jets in the Meadowlands when Ben Coates was stopped about a yard short of a first down on a crucial 4th and 2 play midway through the 4th quarter, but the refs inexplicably spotted the ball beyond the first down marker–no replay challenges back then, so the spot stood, the Pats got the first down, and then Bledsoe hit Byers with the go-ahead TD later on that same drive with about 4 minutes left in the game.

    And, of course, their ultimate stroke of luck was Denver losing in the divisional round, because the Pats had lost to the Broncos by 26 points, at home, in November, and would have had little-to-no shot to beat them in the AFC title game on the road.

    The Super Bowl was disappointing, but Green Bay was just a better team, and I never really thought the Pats had a chance to win that game anyway.

    Of course, the “Parcells Affair” which followed was probably the worst part of that season.

    • Small correction . . . the 1996 season was actually Parcell’s fourth (and, come to find out, final) season with the Pats, and not the third as Brendon wrote above.

      And, yes, the Jaguars upset of the Broncos in the postseason was an incredible bit of good fortune for the Pats. I believe it was only the Jags second season in the league, too, IIRC.

      If someone had told us after the ’97 Super Bowl loss that the Pats would get to play in four more Super Bowls — and win three of them — we would have thought they were nuts. Good times, kids.

  2. I will always remeber freezing in the parking lot watching the Packer/Panthers NFC Title game and how revved up the crowd was for that AFC Title game. Then, of course, the lights went out causing a delay. It seemed so perfect for that awful stadium to be embarrassed on national television.

    Glenn was incredible that year. The fog game was surreal. Just a fun year… until the Parcells nonsense that killed the buzz. To say the least.

  3. It was not a screen pass to Glenn that set up the first touchdown against Pittsburgh in the fog. It was a long pass down the sideline, through the fog, that Terry as able to catch.

    • One of the best throws of Bledsoe’s career, no joke.

      Glenn ran right past Rod Woodson (who was still a cornerback at the time) and Bledsoe pretty much hit him in stride)—first offensive play of the game, and it definitely set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

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