It wasn’t pretty but the New England Patriots raised their record to 10-0 with a 23-10 win over the Buffalo Bills last Monday night. For the second time in nine seasons the Patriots have won their first ten games.
This historic run, which began with a Drew Bledsoe injury that led to the the emergence of a sixth round backup quarterback in Tom Brady, has now reached nearly fifteen seasons. The Patriots consistent success during this era has been second to none, not only in the NFL, but among all four of the major sports. Now with six games remaining here is where the Patriots 15-year run (2001-2015) ranks during the Super Bowl era (Since 1966):
- Highest Win Pct (.769)
- Tied Most Division Titles (12 – will break mark when they clinch later this season)
- 2nd Most Wins (180 – need two to surpass 49ers)
- 12 Playoff Appearances (does not include 2015 season)
- 14 10-Win Seasons (2nd to the 49ers – 15)
- 4 Super Bowl titles ( 2nd to the 49ers – 5)
What makes this run even more amazing is that it happened during the free agency era. A majority of the teams who have had great stretches (like the 49ers and Steelers) did it prior to the age of the salary cap and the prospect of losing players after 3-5 years.
If you compare this run to their AFC East rivals, it is even more remarkable how dominant this Patriots era has been. New England has had a winning record within the AFC East for 15 straight years, which is the best in the NFL since the merger in 1970. The Pats have won 71 of their 90 division games since 2001. When they clinch the AFC East in the coming weeks, it will mark their 13th division title in 15 seasons. The Patriots have appeared in the postseason every year but two, while the rest of the division will have made the playoffs a combined 8 times. The Bills have not reached the playoffs since prior to this Patriots run. Their last appearance was in 1999. If we talk Super Bowl, the Pats have reached six and won four during this run. The last time a team from the AFC East other that New England appeared in the Super Bowl was 22 years ago when the Bills lost the last of their four straight appearances. The last win by an AFC East team in the Super Bowl was 42 seasons ago when the Dolphins won back to back titles, winning Super Bowl VIII over the Vikings.
Of course, the big difference the Patriots have over their division rivals has been continuity . Since 2000, when Belichick was hired by Robert Kraft, there have been 21 head coaching changes among the other three teams in the division. Then there is the quarterback position. Since 2001, the Patriots have had two different opening day quarterbacks (Bledsoe and Brady), while the rest of the division has had a combined 20 quarterbacks play in season openers. When the Patriots clinch the East it will be their 7th straight division title, which will tie the Los Angeles Rams for the longest streak since the merger.
If you look at the Patriots vs the other three major sports leagues, no team has a higher win percentage than the Patriots, who are six percentage points higher than their closest competition, the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs (who have their own HOF pair in Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan). When they clinch their 13th division title later this year, they will end this run with two more division titles than the Spurs, who had 11 during this 15-year run. As for championships, both the Spurs and the Patriots lead the way with four apiece.
As the 2015 season winds down, the only thing left for the Patriots to accomplish is a trip to Santa Clara to add another Lombardi trophy to the collection. That would certainly cement this 15-year run as the greatest team in the Super Bowl era.Add to My RFN