They were the last of eight teams that formed the new American Football League which began play in 1960. Though the AFL was ridiculed by the media and the NFL, it succeeded with a wide open shoot-out style of football. The Patriots were solid contenders with several standout players, in the early years. They won the Eastern Division in 1963 but lost to San Diego in the championship game. By the time of the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970, the Patriots were in decline and still without a home.
In the summer of 1970, the Patriots opened Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro. They also had a new name, the New England Patriots, and were now new members of the National Football League. In 1982, the stadium was renamed Sullivan Stadium after the team's founder and owner Billy Sullivan, and renamed again as Foxboro Stadium in 1990 by new owner Victor Kiam. Though a spartan facility, the venerable stadium had excellent sight lines, seats close to the action, and provided the Patriots a home for 31 years.
Patriots fans were treated to many fine teams with three trips to the Super Bowl during the Foxboro Stadium years. In 1986, the Pats were the first team to win three road playoff games en route to their first ever Super Bowl. Playing the powerful and heavily favored Chicago Bears the Patriots were no match.
The arrival of Drew Bledsoe and Bill Parcells in 1993 and new owner Robert Kraft a year later launched the franchise into a new era of success and popularity. In 1997 the Patriots made it to a second Super Bowl, losing an entertaining game to Green Bay.
In 2000 despite the doubts of some, Kraft hired Bill Belichick as head coach of the Patriots. Belichick had a five year stint as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns but it was his work as assistant coach and defensive coordinator that had earned him acclaim. Given a second chance as a head coach, he built his team on a foundation of discipline, teamwork, preparation, and character, with the result of the Patriots developing into an elite team.
Perhaps the most memorable game ever played in the old stadium was its last, in January of 2002. On a Saturday night in a raging snow storm, Adam Vinatieri booted a field goal in overtime to give the Patriots a playoff victory over Oakland. Two games later, with quarterback Tom Brady completing the first chapter of the onset of a legendary career, and Vinatieri booting yet another game winning field goal, the Patriots won their first Super Bowl.
In the Fall of 2002 after decades of frustration, deals gone bad, and threats of relocation, the Patriots opened state of the art Gillette Stadium, next to site of the old one. In addition to athletic events, the stadium clubhouse was also constructed to be used as a year round convention center and function hall.
The first year in the new stadium was an off year for the team but 2003 and 2004 were historic. The Patriots steamrolled to consecutive 14-2 records and two more Super Bowl titles. They became the second team to ever win three out of four Super Bowls, and their 34 victories is record for two seasons.
It has been a long journey for the Patriots. From a rag- tag team in an ridiculed league; forever in search of a home, often in search for fans, victories, and respect, the Patriots have reached the apex of their sport. When referring to the New England Patriots of the 2000's, they are on the short, illustrious list of the greatest dynasties of the NFL.
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