The New England Patriots and Super Bowl XX
In the last couple of decades, it's become commonplace to see the New England Patriots rolling deep into the playoffs, they might not the best Super Bowl odds
this year, but they still get far. However, there was a time when New England spent most of their time in the basement of the AFC East, with the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills taking turns as the class of the division. The 1985 season was an exception, as the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots met in Super Bowl XX, just the fourth time that both teams were playing in their first Super Bowl. The Bears would win the game in a laugher, 46-10, bolstered by what was then an innovative "46" defense and having completed two other shutouts in the playoffs on the way to the title game at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
During the 1985 season, no one thought that the Patriots had what it took to advance to a Super Bowl. They started the season 2-3, but then they put together a six-game winning streak and ended the season with an 11-5 record. Unfortunately, that just made them the third-best team in their division, as the Dolphins won the title and the New York Jets took another one of the wild cards.
Remember, this was a long time before Tom Brady took the helm. The Patriots' quarterback to start the Super Bowl was Tony Eason
, who had had an up-and-down regular season, throwing for 2,156 yards and 11 scores, but 17 interceptions. When Eason started the Super Bowl poorly, missing on his first six passes and dropping a fumble, Patriots coach Raymond Berry put Steve Grogan (who had started six of the regular season games) in
to run the offense.
The Patriots' receiving corps that year was impressive, with Irving Fryar serving as the "possession" receiver and also turning kickoffs and punts for the team. Stanley Morgan was the team's threat on the long ball, hauling in five touchdown passes that year. However, the best part of the Patriot offense was their running game, featuring SMU grad Craig James who ran for 1,227 yards and caught 27 passes for 370 more, scoring seven touchdowns. The Pats' offensive line featured John Hannah, who would end up in the Hall of Fame, and tackle Brian Holloway.
As solid as the Bears' defense was, the Pats had a strong unit too, having finished #5 in the NFL in fewest yards permitted, with 5,048. Andre Tippett, at linebacker, led the conference with 16.5 sacks and fell on three fumbles. The Patriot secondary only permitted 14 touchdowns, second fewest in the NFL, and defensive back Raymond Clayborn, who would end up in the Pro Bowl, picked off six passes, and Fred Marion (another Pro Bowl pick) snatched seven picks, gaining 189 return yards.
The playoffs were where it all came together for New England. They beat the Jets, the Raiders and the Dolphins in three straight road games to qualify for the Super Bowl. New England had not won a game in Miami since 1966, but they ended a streak of 18 straight losses in the AFC Championship, picking off Dan Marino twice and falling on four fumbles.
In the Super Bowl itself, the Patriots ran out to an early 3-0 lead, but it was all Bears the rest of the way. The Patriots ran 21 plays in the first half for minus-19 yards. It would still be some time before the Patriots became the class of the NFL.