Last Monday night, the 2020 New England Patriots did something that they haven’t done in over 20 years – play a meaningless football game.
In fact, it was December 24th of 2000 when the Patriots last played a game that did not have any ramifications on their ability to make the playoffs. The Patriots entered that game against Miami, their season finale, with a 5-10 record, and capped their season with a 27-24 loss to the Dolphins, who won the AFC East with an 11-5 mark.
Even in the two years since then that New England has missed the playoffs, 2002 and 2008, New England entered the final game of the year with a chance to qualify.
So what were things like 7,309 days ago, the last time a New England Patriots game didn’t matter?
– Bill Belichick was in his first season as Head Coach of the Patriots, having accepted the job with the New York Jets, only to resign the following day.
– Tom Brady was in his rookie season, and had thrown one pass in the NFL. Brady only appeared in one game that season, going 1-3 for six yards in relief of Drew Bledsoe, who had thrown a pair of interceptions in a 34-9 loss to Detroit, including a pick-six on his final pass of the night. Brady actually completed a pass to JR Redmond for four yards, but it was called back on a penalty, so his first official NFL completion would go to tight end Rod Rutledge.
– The Patriots played their games at Foxboro Stadium and had broken ground on March 24, 2000 for Gillette Stadium, which would open in 2002. It would be CMGI Field for a short amount of time (only Revolution games were held there before the name change) and became Gillette in August of 2002.
How about outside of Foxboro?
– Independent Woman by Destiny’s Child was the #1 song on the Billboard charts. Thirteen years later, Destiny’s Child would perform at halftime of Super Bowl XLVII. Then the lights went out in the second half of that game.
– Cast Away was the highest grossing movie in America that week, grossing $28,883,406. Since then, Tom Hanks has starred in, among other things, The Polar Express, The Da Vinci Code, Charlie Wilson’s War, Angels & Demons, Toy Stories 3 & 4, Captain Phillips, Sully, The Post, Bridge of Spies, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
– The reigning award winner for Best Musical was “Contact.” Aida also had premiered on Broadway and won Best Original Score for Elton John and Tim Rice. Phantom of the Opera had only been playing for fourteen years.
– Lebron James was 15 years old and was a sophomore at St. Vincent-St. Mary. He averaged 25.2 points per game and was named Ohio Mr. Basketball. Also, I didn’t hate him at the time. How much I still had to learn.
– Dave Matthews Band was recording their fourth studio album, “Everyday.” Within a few months, “The Space Between” would be heard approximately every 21 minutes on light rock radio stations across the country.
– The average price for a gallon of gas was $1.51. Before the pandemic set in and everyone stopped driving, the average price of gas in 2019 was $2.60 per gallon.
Life was alright back then. And for Patriots fans, it was about to get a lot better. A two decade run for the Pats was unprecedented, but after watching the team this year, it feels like it could be another decade before the next dynasty.
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