As the New England Patriots prepare for their seventh game of 2021, their current record of 2-4 does little to encourage optimism for a successful outcome to the season. Though a playoff run is still very much possible, the accomplishments of previous Pats’ teams seem like a distant memory. In fact, one might be inclined to call them the ‘ghosts of Patriots past.’
When it comes to New England Patriots’ folklore, the past is much more pleasant than not. The gleam of Lombardi trophy silver is never far from the eye of Patriots’ faithful. However, fond recollections within the team’s history are not limited to Super Bowl Sundays. With Thursday’s date being October 21, allow Patriot Maven to welcome you aboard the ‘Foxboro Time Machine’ for a temporal travel fourteen years into the past…to a masterful performance by quarterback Tom Brady and the 2007 New England Patriots offense.
A Record-Setting Performance
As the 2007 NFL season entered its seventh week, the New England Patriots were reveling in their victory over the previously-unbeaten Dallas Cowboys. At 6-0, the League’s top team ‘took their talents to South Beach’ (long before LeBron did) to face the winless Miami Dolphins on Sunday, October 21st.
What seemingly looked like a favorable matchup for the Pats, this game was not without its compelling storylines. For starters, the collective eyes of football fans were becoming quite fixated on the unbeaten squad from Foxboro, Massachusetts. As if the pressure of having to ensure a win each week wasn’t enough, the Patriots were attempting to extend their winning streak in the very same city which boasted the NFL’s last undefeated team, the 1972 Miami Dolphins. They were also doing so under the watchful eye of Dolphins legend Don Shula, head coach of the ‘72 Dolphins, who was in attendance at Dolphin Stadium.
Without a doubt, each member of the ‘07 Pats felt his share of the pressure. Arguably, however, none felt more than quarterback Tom Brady. Although the Patriots’ field general had enjoyed much success throughout his career, he had struggled against Miami, especially in Dolphin Stadium. In fact, his last visit to the city where the ‘heat is on’ ended in a 21-0 shutout during week 14 of the previous season (2006). Still, this ’07 version of the Pats and Brady were on a mission–and they sure played like it.
The result was an annihilation of the Dolphins, which sent a message to each team in the league. For Brady, it was a record-setting day, which provided yet another reason why many consider him to be the greatest to ever play the position.
A Six-Pack Of Touchdowns
The Patriots wasted no time in erasing their scoreless streak in Miami, by driving 80 yards on the opening possession of the game. Brady capped it off with a 30-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Donte Stallworth. Within the blink of an eye, the Patriots led 7-0.
After Dolphins quarterback, Cleo Lemon fumbled the football, the Patriots recovered the ball on the Dolphins’ 28-yard line. On the ensuing drive, they took a 14–0 lead with a 2-yard touchdown reception by tight end Kyle Brady (for those of you who don’t remember the other Brady in 2007, there’s no relation). The Brady-to-Brady connection was the quarterback’s second touchdown pass of the day.
And he was just getting warmed up…
Early in the second quarter, The Dolphins would cut the lead in half with a 79-yard drive, resulting in a 4-yard Lemon touchdown run. However, the Patriots would immediately regain their 14-point advantage when special teams- safety Wille Andrews returned the kickoff 74 yards for the score.
Brady used his next drive to show off his most potent offensive weapons. He completed a 36-yard pass to wide receiver and former Dolphin Wes Welker. This reception set up a 35-yard touchdown catch by receiver Randy Moss, and Brady tallied his third touchdown pass on the day.
After yet another Dolphins punt, Brady connected with Moss on his longest touchdown pass of the day. He threw a 50-yard touchdown strike to his prolific target, giving the Patriots a 28-point lead. The Patriots and Brady were rolling.
The two teams would trade punts, and field position to close out the second quarter. The Patriots began their final drive of the half at their own 29-yard line. In what seemed like a foregone conclusion, Brady led the Patriots on another scoring drive. This time, he would target Welker, who hauled in a 14-yard touchdown. It was Brady’s fifth touchdown pass of the day, and the 42 points scored in the half set a franchise record.
In the second half, the Patriots high-powered offense slowed down some, but the damage to the Dolphins chances was irreparable. Neither team would reach the end zone in the third quarter. The Dolphins had put together an impressive drive that lasted more than nine minutes and took them to the Patriots’ 19-yard line. However, an interception by Patriots cornerback Randall Gay retained the Patriots’ lead.
The Dolphins began the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that would put them back on the scoreboard. The drive ended with a 1-yard by running back Patrick Cobbs, cutting their deficit to 28 points. On the next drive, the Patriots replaced Brady with backup quarterback Matt Cassel. However, Cassel did not exactly inherit the magic of his mentor in the moment. The Pats backup threw an interception to defensive end Jason Taylor, which the future Hall-of-Farmer returned for a touchdown.
Never one to take any lead for granted, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sent Brady back to the field for the team’s next possession. That drive spanned 59 yards and ended with a 16-yard touchdown toss to Welker. It was Brady’s sixth touchdown pass of the game, giving him the Patriots record.
Though the Dolphins managed to stretch their point total to 28 (with a 7-yard touchdown run by running back Jesse Chatman) Their seventh win of the season was capped by a 12-yard sack of Lemon by linebacker Junior Seau near midfield. With this win, the Patriots began the season 7–0 for the first time in team history.
Brady’s sixth-touchdown-pass performance sealed the game for the Patriots and put the rest of the league on notice. Tom Brady was more than simply a ‘system quarterback.’ He was beginning to make a strong case for being one of the greatest quarterbacks in its history.
One for the ‘books’
In retrospect, the matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots on October 21, 2007 was much more of a rout than even the 49-28 score would indicate. The Patriots dominated the game from start to finish. Offensively, New England looked unstoppable. In his first visit to Miami (since being acquired by the Pats via trade), Wes Welker compiled nine catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Randy Moss was equally as impressive, tallying four catches for 122 yards and two more touchdowns; his ninth and tenth of the season. Moss became the first Patriots’ receiver since Stanley Morgan in 1986 to have 10 or more touchdown receptions in a season. Both Moss and Welker had 100-yard receiving games by halftime.
After the game, Belichick stated:
“I thought our team played well, offensively, especially. I thought our team moved the ball and scored a lot of points, something that we haven’t done very much of down here, so it was good to feel that and experience it.”
This day, however, belonged to Brady. In addition to his record-setting six touchdown passes, the Patriots star quarterback completed 21-of-25 passes for 354 yards. He completed his first 11 passes for 220 yards and did not throw an incompletion until late in the second quarter. With his season total now standing at 27, Brady had already eclipsed his 2006 touchdown pass mark of 24. While his previous Miami struggles had plagued him in the past, Brady felt very much at home in Dolphin Stadium on this autumn afternoon in Florida.
The Patriots mantra in 2007 could easily be summed up by the phrase ‘one game at a time.’ The team, following the example of its head coach, would not allow anything to interfere with this philosophy. However, as they compiled win after win, the media and football fans alike began to wonder…
Could the Patriots really go undefeated like the ’72 Dolphins?
After all, they had just eviscerated the current Dolphins in the home city of that very team. It seemed possible. Even Miami’s star defensive end Jason Taylor had this to say about the Pats after the game:
“I know the ’72 team will talk about it at some point. It is tough to go undefeated in this league, as evidenced between the period of time between now and when it was last achieved. But, they’re good enough to play in the Super Bowl, I know that, and win it. They’re a heck of a lot better than they were last year and heck, they should have been there. They kind of gave it away in Indy.” (referring to the Pats loss in the 2006 AFC Championship Game)
It was working out pretty well, so far.
While the image of New York Giants receiver David Tyree’s helmet catch still haunts the collective memories of Patriots’ fans to this day, Week Seven of the 2007 NFL season will forever be fondly remembered in New England. Though the eventual outcome of Super Bowl XLII would leave the Pats’ fan base with bitter palates, 2007 was a special season; and New England’s dominant performance on October 21 was the beginning of a magical run. Their victory on that date, however, was not intended to send a message to the ’72 Dolphins. They were not pursuing perfection for the season — at least, not yet. At this point, they were pursuing perfection one game at a time. The only message the Patriots were trying to send was to themselves. They were trying to win in true Patriot fashion; one game at a time. Perhaps future incarnations of the Patriots might learn a lesson from that prolific 2007 team?
Until then, the Foxboro Faithful live in hope…
What’s past is prologue.