So what does your Sunday afternoon look like?

For the first time in 10 years, the New England Patriots aren’t playing in a divisional round playoff game. And for fans of the greatest dynasty in NFL history, well, that has to be a little unsettling. No game to watch. No party to hold. No wins to toast.

Fret not. While the future of this team is unclear – will Tom Brady return? – its past is rich in history and great moments, memorable players and games. New England’s success over a 20-year period will never be matched. Eleven consecutive AFC East titles? Absurd. Eight consecutive appearances in the AFC championship game? Mind-boggling. Six Super Bowl championships? Hope you’ve appreciated it. Nobody will ever witness anything like it again.

There will be much debate these coming weeks over what direction the team will take. Leave those concerns for another day. For now, sit back and look back at some of the moments that have defined the dynasty:

Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri is hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates after his game-winning overtime field goal  in overtime against the Oakland Raiders in a AFC divisional round playoff game at Foxboro Stadium on Jan. 19, 2002. Associated Press/Charles Krupa

Jan. 19, 2002: THE SNOW BOWL

This is the day the dynasty was born. Not earlier in the season, when Drew Bledsoe took a vicious hit from New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis and would be replaced by Brady. Not two weeks later when the Patriots defeated the heavily-favored St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI in the New Orleans Superdome.

No, it was on this cold, snowy Saturday night in the last game played at Foxboro Stadium, a 16-13 overtime victory over the Oakland Raiders in the divisional round. Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal through the snow with 27 seconds left to send the game to overtime, then kicked a 23-yard field goal with 6:31 left in overtime to win it. And long-snapper Loni Paxton made snow angels.

But none of that would have happened if not for …

With 1:50 remaining and New England facing a first down at the Oakland 42, Brady dropped back to pass. As he pumped his arm he was hit and sacked by Charles Woodson. And fumbled. With Oakland’s Greg Biekert recovering. Or so we thought.

The play went to review and soon referee Walt Coleman introduced America to the Tuck Rule. The play was ruled an incomplete pass, the Patriots retained possession and the legend of Tom Brady got its start.

Jan. 18, 2004: DEFENSIVE BEATDOWN

Rodney Harrison corrals Colts receiver Reggie Wayne during the 2003 AFC championship game. Associated Press/Charles Krupa

Before Brady became Tom Terrific, the Patriots often won their games with defense and a physical running game. So it was on this snowy AFC championship game when the Patriots pounded the Indianapolis Colts 24-14 at Gillette Stadium.

The Colts had all the weapons – Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne – but New England sacked Manning five times and intercepted him four times. Ty Law had three of them, Rodney Harrison the other.

And then the Patriots were off to their second Super Bowl title, a 32-29 win over Carolina. One other thing to remember about this season: it began with a 31-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills after which every national pundit decreed that the Patriots were done. They lost one more game that season and ended the regular season with a 31-0 win over the Bills.

Jan. 4, 2006: WATSON RUNS DOWN BAILEY

Yes, the Patriots lost this game, a 27-13 decision to the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in the divisional round.

But Ben Watson’s play in the third quarter defied logic and defined what it meant to be a Patriot: to never give up, to play every play to the finish.

New England trailed 10-6 and faced a third-and-goal at the Broncos 5. Brady tried to find Troy Brown in the right corner of the end zone, but Champ Bailey, perhaps the fastest player in the league at the time, intercepted the pass a yard deep in the end zone and took off down the sideline for an apparent touchdown.

Watson, a tight end who was on the other side of the field when the pass was thrown, somehow diagonally ran down Bailey and pushed him out of bounds at the New England  1.

Tom Brady and Randy Moss connected for 23 touchdown passes in 2007 – including a 65-yarder at Giants Stadium that allowed the Patriots to complete the regular season with a 16-0 record. Associated Press/Julie Jacobson

Dec. 29, 2007: SIXTEEN AND O

It was the regular-season finale, a meaningless game for both the Patriots and New York Giants, since both had clinched playoff spots. But the Patriots were going for an undefeated regular season. And both teams played their starters the entire game. And it was a fantastic game.

New England won, 38-35, Brady’s 65-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss giving the Patriots the lead late. Brady threw 50 touchdown passes that year, 23 to Moss. What a combination!

Alas, five weeks later the Giants had their revenge, ending the Patriots hopes for perfection with a stunning 17-14 win in Super Bowl XLII.

Oct. 14, 2013: ‘UNICORNS! SHOW PONIES!’

Tom Brady and Drew Brees chat after their epic showdown on Oct. 13, 2013 at Gillette Stadium. Associated Press/Steven Senne

Perhaps the greatest single day for radio calls in the history of New England sports.

It started late afternoon, as Brady rallied the Patriots to an improbable 30-27 win over New Orleans, which scored 10 points in 65 seconds to take a late 27-23 lead. Brady’s touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with 5 seconds remaining prompted the radio call by analyst Scott Zolak: “He did it. Brady’s back. There’s your quarterback … Unicorns! Show ponies! Where’s the beef?”

Later that night, with the Boston Red Sox trailing the Detroit Tigers by four with two outs in the eighth, trailing 1-0 in the ALCS, David Ortiz crushed a game-tying grand slam, prompting Dave O’Brien to simply say, “David Ortiz. David Ortiz. David Ortiz.” The Red Sox won the game in the ninth and went on the win the World Series.

Sept. 29, 2014: ‘WE’RE ON TO CINCINNATI’

A 41-14 thumping by the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football had everyone once again wondering if the Patriots were done, if Brady was too old. All Bill Belichick kept saying, repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, was, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”

The poor Bengals. Brady was 23 for 35 passing for  292 yards and two touchdowns in a 43-17 New England win the next Sunday. The Patriots averaged 39.5 points over the next seven weeks, all victories. Yeah, they were done.

Jan. 10, 2015: ONCE A QUARTERBACK …

The Baltimore Ravens were controlling the AFC divisional playoff game, leading 28-14 early in the third quarter. Then the Patriots scored twice, the tying touchdown seemingly drawn up in playground dirt long, long ago.

Brady threw a lateral to wide receiver Julian Edelman on the left. Edelman, a college quarterback, pulled up and found Danny Amendola behind the defense for a 51-yard score, the crowd at Gillette erupting in such delirium that the press box and luxury boxes were shaking.

Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler intercepts a pass intended for Seattle receiver Ricardo Lockette to clinch New England’s 28-24 win over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Associated Press/Kathy Willens

Feb. 1, 2015: ‘MALCOLM. GO.’

Super Bowl XLIX will be remembered for a lot of things (in Seattle, they still want to know why Marshawn Lynch didn’t get the ball!). But New England’s 28-24 win over the Seahawks will forever be remembered in New England for Patriots assistant coach Brian Flores (now the head man in Miami) yelling, “Malcolm. Go.”

Seattle led 24-14 into the fourth but Brady and the Patriots fought back, taking the lead on touchdown passes to Amendola and Edelman, the latter with 2:02 remaining. Seattle, aided by a miracle catch by Jermaine Kearse that put the ball on the Patriots 5, faced a second down at the 1 with 26 seconds left. That’s when Flores turned and yelled for Butler to get into the game as the third cornerback.

Sure enough, Russell Wilson threw the ball. And Butler intercepted it. The dynasty was jump-started.

Oct. 9, 2016: BRADY’S BACK

Brady had to sit out the first four games of the 2016 season, his four-game suspension a punishment for his role in the Deflategate fiasco. Behind Jimmy Garappolo and Jacoby Brissett, the Patriots went 3-1.

Brady returned to lead New England to a 33-13 win at Cleveland, going 28 of 40 for 406 yards and three touchdowns. His Revenge Tour was just starting.

Feb. 5, 2017: TWENTY-EIGHT TO THREE

The Patriots were toast. I know I wrote it. So did just about every other journalist covering Super Bowl LI in Houston. The Atlanta Falcons were too fast, too strong, too good and were whipping the Patriots 28-3 early in the third quarter.

We should have known better.

Dont’a Hightower forces Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan to fumble during the Patriots’ second-half comeback in Super Bowl LI. Associated Press/Jae C. Hong

Slowly the Patriots crawled back in. And when Dont’a Hightower sacked Matt Ryan and forced a fumble that New England’s Alan Branch recovered at the Falcons 25 with 8:24 remaining (still trailing 28-12), there was life. Five plays later, Brady found Amendola for a touchdown and James White scored the conversion rush and it was 28-20.

The Falcons had a chance to put it away after Julio Jones  made a jaw-dropping catch at the New England 22. All Atlanta needed was a field goal. Instead, Ryan was sacked by Trey Flowers and an offensive holding penalty ended the drive. The Falcons punted to Brady and New England took over at its 9 with 3:30 left.

All it took was for Edelman to make one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history, twice grabbing a deflected ball an inch before it hit the ground, to set up the touchdown, a 1-yard run by White. Brady threw to Amendola for the two-point conversion and it was off to overtime.

Once the Patriots won the toss, you knew it was over. Brady directed them downfield, White scored from the 2 and the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history was complete.


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