AFC East: Steve Grogan

Name top five QBs for each AFC East team

June, 10, 2011
6/10/11
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Football Outsiders senior writer Mike Tanier has been charting the top five quarterbacks of every NFL team. In his latest column, he broke down the AFC East's best. You should click on the links to read Tanier's reasoning and interesting stats on each selection.

A first-round pick from the famed 1983 draft class appears on every list.

Buffalo Bills
  1. Jim Kelly
  2. Joe Ferguson
  3. Jack Kemp
  4. Drew Bledsoe
  5. Doug Flutie

Quick take: It's strange to see Flutie on the Bills' all-time list. When I arrived in Western New York 11 years ago, the area was hotly divided over him and Rob Johnson. Some fans wanted Flutie to just go away. But I agree with the list and, as Tanier, points out in his piece, this goes to show how few great quarterbacks there've been over the years.

Miami Dolphins
  1. Dan Marino
  2. Bob Griese
  3. Jay Fiedler
  4. Don Strock
  5. Earl Morrall

Quick take: The Dolphins have a two Hall of Famers in their history, but you can see how much trouble they've had finding a replacement for Marino when you consider their fourth- and fifth-best quarterbacks are known for being quality backups. Granted, Morrall came off the sideline to help maintain the undefeated 1972 season. But he started 14 times over five seasons with Miami and just 40 percent of his career games.

New England Patriots
  1. Tom Brady
  2. Drew Bledsoe
  3. Babe Parilli
  4. Steve Grogan
  5. Tony Eason

Quick take: This is the only AFC East team with an active quarterback on the list. The rundown couldn't be more straightforward to me. Maybe you could flip Grogan and Parilli because of longevity and the neck roll.

New York Jets (from a previous Football Outsiders column)
  1. Joe Namath
  2. Chad Pennington
  3. Ken O'Brien
  4. Vinny Testaverde
  5. Richard Todd

Quick take: Tanier notes that if you wanted to rank Sanchez fourth right now, then he wouldn't argue. Neither would I, although I'd be more comfortable with Sanchez replacing Todd on this list. Tanier also claims if Pennington had avoided one of his lost seasons, he might be the greatest quarterback in Jets history -- from a statistical standpoint.

All-time best: Tecmo? Madden? NBA Jam?

March, 1, 2011
3/01/11
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This blog item doesn't pertain to the AFC East sincerely.

But it's too fun to pass up. I'll find a way to stretch it.

ESPN Radio host Doug Gottlieb has assembled a tournament bracket to determine the greatest sports video game of all-time. You cast the votes.

Thirty-two entries made the field, and it's difficult to argue with the No. 1 seeds in each of the four regions: Tecmo Super Bowl, NHL '94, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and NBA Jam.

That's a murderer's row and darn near an exact lineup of my personal favorites.

The Madden franchise is represented by its 2005 version (Ray Lewis cover) and is a controversial No. 2 seed in the Tecmo Super Bowl region. That will be an elite eight matchup for the ages.

The Madden edition I recall most fondly is '92. I was so dominant my big brother actually would find opponents for cash games that required an hour-long drive to a neutral site. I was undefeated in those showdowns. That's listed on my resume.

I'm truly terrible on the PlayStation3 model. I'm more of a "Red Dead Redemption" guy these days. Anybody know where I can pick up a John Marston rookie card?

What a snub not to see Earl Weaver Baseball in the tournament. Yet Duck Hunt made the cut. Incredible.

I was disappointed to see my beloved SNK Baseball Stars as a No. 7 seed. Arch Rivals, the arcade game that devoured my quarters in the basement of the Baldwin-Wallace College student union, is the No. 5 seed in the same region.

So let's make this an AFC East-related post somehow.

For your stroll down memory lane, here are the top Tecmo Super Bowl players from the division. I mistakenly listed the 1994 Super Nintendo version earlier. I've also added the Indianapolis Colts to round out the division. Thanks to readers redvenomweb and ucnu112 for their help on tracking down the 1991 rosters:
  • Buffalo Bills -- Bills QB (licensing issue), running back Thurman Thomas, receiver Andre Reed, defensive end Bruce Smith.
  • Indianapolis Colts -- Quarterback Jeff George, running back Albert Bentley, receiver Bill Brooks.
  • Miami Dolphins -- Quarterback Dan Marino, running back Sammie Smith, receivers Mark Clayton and Mark Duper.
  • New England Patriots -- Quarterback Steve Grogan, running back John Stephens, receiver Irving Fryar, linebacker Andre Tippett.
  • New York Jets -- Quarterback Ken O'Brien, running back Blair Thomas, receiver Al Toon.

Now who wants to run down with me to the 7-11 to pick up a couple two-liters, a bag of Funyons and some beef jerky, then pull up the footstool and pop in a cartridge?

Cunningham goes into Patriots HOF

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sam Cunningham saved me from excruciating pain and certain ridicule in front of hundreds of people.

Behind an end zone of the New England Patriots practice fields, we were reminiscing about his playing days when some people screamed "Heads up!"

My instinct was to look at the far field, where the Patriots and New Orleans Saints were running 11-on-11 drills. Saints kicker Garrett Hartley had been working out on the closest field but would need to go wiiiiiiiiiide left to send a ball our way.

[+] EnlargeSam Cunningham
Dick Raphael/US PresswireSam Cunningham spent all 10 of his NFL seasons with the New England Patriots.
Hartley did, and thankfully Cunningham still has those soft hands or else I'd have reprised Hans Moleman in "Man Getting Hit by Football."

With the ball flying right toward a most delicate region and me looking into the sun, Cunningham reached over and snared it like it was a Steve Grogan backfield toss.

"I hadn't caught a football in I don't know how long," Cunningham laughed.

At that moment, I enshrined Cunningham into the Tim Graham Hall of Fame, which I'm sure falls just short of measuring up to the honor the Patriots will bestow on him Thursday afternoon.

The hard-charging fullback known as "Bam" will be inducted into the Hall at Patriot Place.

"We came, we put in our work as hard as we could and much as we could and for the fans and the people to appreciate it," Cunningham said. "At the end of the day, that's all you want. You make your money, you spend your money and you do whatever you do. The appreciation factor is something that never goes away."

He is said to have helped integrate college football in the South with a dominant performance for USC against Alabama in 1970 and spent all 10 of his NFL seasons with the Patriots. He's still the franchise leader with 1,385 rushing attempts and 5,453 yards. His 43 rushing touchdowns rank second.

Cunningham had one of the greatest seasons at any position in Patriots history in 1977, when the Patriots set an NFL record with 3,165 rushing yards. The record hasn't been legitimately approached despite the addition of two more regular-season games.

That year, Cunningham ran for a team-high 1,015 yards and four touchdowns and caught 42 passes for 370 yards and a touchdown. He went to the Pro Bowl the next season, running for 768 yards and eight touchdowns.

"He played at a time where a lot of people don't really probably right now appreciate what fullbacks were in the '70s and early '80s," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. They were "guys that not only blocked, but ran the ball, caught it and really never came off the field ... not just on first down or third down or those kind of specialty players.

"He was a big ball carrier, a hard guy to tackle, a very good runner, a good blocker, caught the ball well, very good in short-yardage and goal line."

But Cunningham's teams reached the postseason only three times, the last coming in 1982, when he played in only six games.

"We were off the radar a little bit, but I guarantee you the teams we played didn't really want to play us," Cunningham said. "People looked at us as an also-ran team, but we had players from programs that had won and didn't like to lose and a coach that didn't like to lose and held us accountable.

"History looks back differently than those teams were at that time. The teams we played understood the talent we had and what we could do if they took us lightly."

Tatum's death summons Stingley tragedy

July, 27, 2010
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When somebody dies, it's polite to say something nice.

Out of respect, even the reviled are generally granted dispensation when they pass away. A particularly horrible decline elicits extra mercy.

But not when it's Jack Tatum, and not when the man being asked is Steve Grogan.

"I just can't do it," Grogan coldly said Tuesday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeDarryl Stingley
Ron Riesterer/The Sporting News/ZUMA PressDarryl Stingley, above, never recovered from a collision with Jack Tatum in Aug. 1978, remaining in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.
Tatum, a safety who embodied the Oakland Raiders mystique and was called "The Assassin" for his brutal hits, died of a heart attack at 61. Tatum dealt with a series of problems related to diabetes in recent years. His right leg and all the toes on his left foot were amputated.

That he lived his final years in such condition was sad to some, tragically poetic to others.

Tatum's most infamous collision occurred when he paralyzed New England Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game. Stingley was 55 when he died three years ago from pneumonia complicated by his paralysis.

"I'm sorry because there was a life lost today," said Darryl Stingley's son, Derek, who was 7 when his father stopped walking. "Jack Tatum had a family. He was somebody's father, somebody's brother, somebody's cousin or uncle. I truly am sad because of that.

"But at the same time that life put my father in a situation that he couldn't feed himself when he wanted to."

Derek Stingley saw a report of Tatum's death on ESPN's news crawl and immediately called his grandmother, Hilda Stingley.

"This brings back all those memories," Derek Stingley said. "I've just been almost in a daze today."

On that fateful night in 1978, Grogan threw to Darryl Stingley on a crossing route in a meaningless game. The ball sailed incomplete. Tatum blasted him head-on anyway. Darryl Stingley didn't get up.

The hit was considered legal at the time, the kind of vicious shot Tatum delivered on a regular basis. No flag was thrown. The NFL didn't discipline Tatum. That Darryl Stingley suffered two broken vertebrae and was paralyzed from the chest down was considered bad luck.

"I've seen the hit over and over," said Derek Stingley, president of the Darryl Stingley Youth Foundation, which his father founded. "Tatum was just giving him a hard hit. That was in the cosmos. That was in the stars that day."

What happened in the days, weeks and years after the hit was what Grogan -- and much of the Patriots family -- deemed unforgivable.

"I have a hard time trying to find something nice to say," Grogan said about Tatum. "That bothers me because I'm not like that normally. You may talk to guys that played with him, and they might tell you he was greatest teammate in the world and everybody loved him.

"The circumstance that we were involved with, just the way he handled it, that will never come out of any of our mouths or minds."

Tatum never spoke to Darryl Stingley after the injury -- although he did suggest a televised reconciliation to coincide with the release of a book. Tatum wrote three of them: "They Call Me Assassin" in 1979, "They Still Call Me Assassin" in 1989 and "Final Confessions of NFL Assassin Jack Tatum" in 1996.

"When something like that happens and you can't apologize for it, go out and write a book to make money and try to get famous off the incident, that's just not right," Grogan said. "I thought he handled it very poorly."

In a 2003 Boston Globe story, Darryl Stingley said he still would welcome a visit or a call from Tatum -- without a commercial agenda.

"If he called me today, I'd answer," Darryl Stingley said. "If he came to my house, I'd open my door to him. All I ever wanted was for him to acknowledge me as a human being. I just wanted to hear from him if he felt sorry or not. It's not like I'm unreachable. But it's not a phone call I'll be waiting for anymore."

Darryl Stingley also claimed he harbored no hatred for Tatum.

"It's hard to articulate," Darryl Stingley said. "It was a test of my faith. The entire story. In who, and how much, do you believe, Darryl? In my heart and in my mind I forgave Jack Tatum a long time ago."

Tatum's legacy was forever tainted by his callousness. ESPN's John Clayton wrote a remembrance of Tatum and noted the behavior toward Darryl Stingley likely prevented Tatum from garnering consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Tatum was a three-time Pro Bowler. He was involved in several memorable hits, knocking off Minnesota Vikings receiver Sammy White's helmet in Super Bowl XI and waylaying Frenchy Fuqua to ricochet the ball Franco Harris turned into the Immaculate Reception.

The NFL Network ranked Tatum the sixth-most fearsome tackler in league history, but the program never mentioned his hit on Darryl Stingley.

"He had close to 30 years to apologize," Derek Stingley said. "If that created a burden for him to live with, that's his own doing. There were plenty of opportunities.

"This is a reminder to put things to the side and let bygones be bygones. I wish they had that opportunity to close that chapter in their lives, but it never happened."

Best Patriots Team Ever: 2004

June, 30, 2010
6/30/10
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Notable players: QB Tom Brady, RB Corey Dillon, WR Deion Branch, WR/DB Troy Brown, TE Daniel Graham, T Matt Light, DE Richard Seymour, OLB Willie McGinest, OLB Mike Vrabel, ILB Tedy Bruschi, CB Ty Law, CB Asante Samuel, S Rodney Harrison, K Adam Vinatieri, ST Larry Izzo.

[+] EnlargeBrady
Matthew Emmons/uS PresswireTom Brady and the Patriots collected their third Super Bowl win in four seasons.
Analysis: The New England Patriots are the only AFC East club with three championship seasons to consider, and one could argue with conviction their best team didn't win the Super Bowl.

But 2004 stands apart. The Patriots claimed their third Vince Lombardi Trophy in four seasons to establish themselves as one of the all-time great teams. Brady and head coach Bill Belichick ensured their place in Canton.

The Patriots picked up where they left off after winning Super Bowl XXXVIII the year before. They increased their win streak to an NFL record 21 games. They ranked fourth in scoring and second in points allowed. They lost two games all season, Week 8 at the Pittsburgh Steelers and Week 15 at the Miami Dolphins.

After beating the Indianapolis Colts for the second time and holding Peyton Manning's offense to three points in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Patriots scored 41 points to avenge their defeat in Pittsburgh.

In Super Bowl XXXIX, the Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles more comfortably than the 24-21 score indicates. Adam Vinatieri didn't need to drill a field goal in the closing seconds for a change.

Most impressive win: The Patriots never were more dominant than they were in Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills, a borderline playoff team that won three out of four heading into Gillette Stadium and six straight afterward. The Patriots rolled up a season-high 428 offensive yards and limited the Bills to 125 yards to win 29-6.

What can Brown do for you? Pretty much whatever you could ask of him. Brown caught only 15 passes in the regular season, but in Week 9 against the St. Louis Rams, he entered the game as an emergency defensive back when Samuel went down with an injury. Brown finished the season with three interceptions (one shy of the team lead) and broke the Super Bowl record for punt returns.

Honorable mention

2007: It's the greatest NFL team not to win the championship. Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker rewrote a good chunk of the offensive record book, but the Patriots fell short of finishing the season undefeated, losing in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.

2001: New England won its first championship with an offense that ranked sixth in scoring and a defense that ranked sixth in points allowed. Belichick's controversial decision to stick with Brady when Drew Bledsoe returned to health created a superstar.

2003: New England went 14-2 to win its second title in three years. The offense was pretty mediocre, but the defense posted three shutouts, gave up six points or fewer five times and averaged 11.9 points against over the final 10 weeks of the regular season.

1976: Patriots fans thought a storybook season was unfolding in the bicentennial. Steve Grogan and Sam Cunningham led the Pats to an 11-3 record, but a controversial late-hit call helped them lose to the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs.

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Patriots mourn Mosi Tatupu's passing

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
1:19
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Mosi's MoosesNew England PatriotsMosi Tatupu had his own cheering section, "Mosi's Mooses," in Sullivan Stadium.
The New England Patriots are mourning the loss of a fan favorite.

Fullback and special-teams ace Mosi Tatupu died Tuesday in Attleboro, Mass. He was 54.

Tatupu, a gritty eighth-round draft choice in 1978, played 13 seasons with the Patriots. He was the lead blocker for Craig James when the Patriots went to their first Super Bowl and was selected to the Pro Bowl for 1986.

[+] EnlargeTatupu
Rob Brown/Getty ImagesMosi Tatupu spent 13 seasons with the Patriots.
Tatupu had his own cheering section called "Mosi's Mooses" in Sullivan Stadium. He was named to the Patriots' 50th anniversary team.

He briefly played for the St. Louis Rams before retiring in 1991. He coached his son, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, at King Philip Regional High in Wrentham, Mass.

The Patriots have released statements from the organization and some of Tatupu's teammates.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft

"I know that I share a heavy heart today with Patriots fans everywhere who have learned of Mosi Tatupu’s passing. I was shocked by the news this morning. My sons and I loved to watch Mosi. He was one of our favorite players for more than a decade. I don't think you could watch a Patriots game in the '80s without becoming a fan of his. He was a dominant special-teams player and a punishing rusher who loved the Patriots as much as the fans did. He gave everything that he had on every play. ... He was an iconic player and will be remembered for all of his contributions as a Patriot, both on and off the field."

Former Patriots receiver Stanley Morgan

"There was only one Mosi. I first met Mosi the year after I came to the Patriots, when he got here in 1978, and it was love at first sight, I guess you could say. He got along great with everybody. He had that air about him that you were comfortable around him all the time, and nobody was a stranger around him. People were attracted to that."

Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett

"You probably couldn't ask for a better teammate than Mosi. It was the way he approached the game. He worked hard. He practiced hard. He had a way about him. He always had an upbeat attitude. He was happy all the time and just pleasant to be around. He had a special connection with the fans and his teammates. Everybody loved him."

Former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan

"As a teammate, he was one of the best. He was one of those guys that made life fun, whether it was in the locker room or on the practice fields. He had a smile that radiated. The fans appreciated him because he was a lunch-pail kind of guy and did whatever was asked of him, whether it was on special teams, on the goal line, in blocking or catching situations. I think Patriots fans really appreciated that."

Former Patriots center Pete Brock

"The thing about Mosi was that he did everything. He wasn't the glamour guy out in front, getting all the carries. He just played football and he played hard. A lot of people remember the 'Snow Plow Game' and, of course, John Smith's kick won it. But it was Mosi, who ran for more than 100 yards that day, that really won that game.

"It's really a shock, and it's so much tougher because we played before the era of free agency. So you really got to know everybody. We were a community. We raised our children together. Because of that it's just like losing a family member."

Nobody carries a team like Brady or The Bomber

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
8:35
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

When it comes to carrying a team, Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of the past 35 years.

So says research done by Mark Wald of the underrated and often fascinating ColdHardFootballFacts.com.

Because a high number of pass attempts generally equates to a defeat, Wald wanted to ascertain which quarterbacks have had the greatest success when throwing a lot. He ran the stats from 1960 through 2008, qualifying a game in which a quarterback was asked to "carry the team" as 30 or more passes pre-1978 and 40 or more passes from 1978 on.

Wald's data showed Daryle Lamonica was worthy of his nickname, The Mad Bomber.

Lamonica ranked first with a .703 winning percentage when asked to carry his team. Brady was second at .680. Bart Starr and Bill Nelsen were tied for third at .625.

Big deal, you say?

Then consider this: The average winning percentage is .307 for all quarterbacks in "carry the team" qualifying games.

Some other AFC East quarterbacks of note:

12. Jack Kemp, .490.
14. Dan Marino, .478.
16. Al Dorow, .462.

Wald also listed the quarterbacks with the worst records when asked to carry his team. Here are the quarterbacks with AFC East backgrounds:

2. Joey Harrington, .048.
6. Doug Flutie, .100.
9. Daunte Culpepper, .118.
10t. Steve Grogan, .125.
16. Scott Mitchell, .158.
17t. Gus Frerotte, .176.
17t. Neil O'Donnell, Jets, .176.

Pats Rushmore: Brady, Belichick, Tippett, Hannah

February, 16, 2009
2/16/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

After two weeks of polling, the ballots have been counted to determine your picks for the Mount Rushmore of each AFC East team.

To play off ESPN's quest to determine the best sports Mount Rushmore from the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, I solicited your thoughts on the four legends who best symbolize the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets.

 Tippett
 Hannah
 Brady
 Belichick

Patriot Nation responded with 16 nominees, and the polling was the closest among the four AFC East clubs.

The final four are quarterback Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick, linebacker Andre Tippett and guard John Hannah. The last two are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The first two are on their way.

Brady and Belichick were runaway selections. Tippett and Hannah tied for third, while owner Robert Kraft was one vote behind them. Fan-favorite receiver Troy Brown finished one vote behind Kraft.

Top 10 voting went like this:

 1.Tom Brady
 2. Bill Belichick
 3. Andre Tippett
     John Hannah
 5. Robert Kraft
 6. Troy Brown
 7. Tedy Bruschi
 8. Drew Bledsoe
 9. Steve Grogan
10. Adam Vinatieri
Here are a few of the comments from the readers who participated:

Mike in Natick, Mass., writes: My Top 4: Tom Brady Bob Kraft John Hannah Bill Belichick I think Brady and BB are on the list for obvious reasons. Hannah was one of the most, if not the most dominating interior linemen in the league in his era, maybe even the most dominating lineman. And Bob Kraft took a franchise which was heading in the wrong direction since Super Bowl XX. He bought the franchise, hired the best coach at the time to run his team (though Parcells didn't have full control) and eventually built a state of the art stadium. He has taken the team from a second class citizen in the NFL to the benchmark of success and the class of the NFL. For as much as anybody else has done for the New England Patriots on the field, the Patriots would not be who they are today without the ownership of Bob Kraft.

Jeff W in Boston writes: Hey Tim, As for a Patriots Mount Rushmore, it's a very difficult decision, but I have to go with championships. Tom Brady obviously makes it in, as does Bill Belichick. My last two choices are a bit more controversial, but I think they represent everything the Patriots stand for. Those two would be Bob Kraft and Troy Brown. Kraft turned around a losing culture and helped make the Patriots relevant, while Brown was the ultimate team player. It's tough for me to leave Andre Tippett off of here, and while he was certainly one of the top Patriots players of all time, I have to think of who brought championships to New England.

Quinton from Parts Unknown writes: I would say Brady, Belichick, Bob Kraft, and my uncle Bruce Armstrong(LT) who after his 14 year career ended up with the patriots record for career and consecutive starts and bridged that gap from the bad years to the good.

Pats_fan_1961 writes: I would have to put at least one member from the original AFL days, and one from today's team, and fill in the other two spots in between. So, My selections would be Gino Capaletti, John Hannah, Andre Tippett, and "In Bill We Trust" Belichick.

Gino was Mr. Patriot in the 60s, you have to include him. Honorable mention: Steve Grogan, Sam Cunningham, Darryl Stingley, Steve Nelson, Mike Haynes, Babe Parelli, Tom Brady, and Tedy Bruschi, Billy Sullivan, and finally Bob Kraft.

Sullivan gets an honorable mention because, after all, he was the founder of the Patriots, and Sam "Bam" Cunningham was the best back the Pats have ever drafted and remained a Patriot.

rickstoneburnersr writes: How could you leave out Tedy Bruschi and Adam Vinatieri? Also give Drew Bledsoe some respect, don't forget what the team was like before Bledsoe. Patriots Rushmore: Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe, Tedy Bruschi, and Adam Vinatieri!!!

Cautious Pats refused to throw in the wind

December, 28, 2008
12/28/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 13-0 on Sunday despite Matt Cassel throwing eight passes in gusty Orchard Park, N.Y.

Elias Sports Bureau has determined that's the fewest attempts in a game since the Carolina Panthers installed a gadget, direct-snap offense to deal with the sudden need to use third-string quarterback Chris Weinke. DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams combined for 49 carries in a 10-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

The last time the Patriots threw so infrequently was in December 1982, the infamous Snow Plow game. Steve Grogan threw only five times to beat the Dolphins 3-0.

Hall at Patriot Place does it right

October, 23, 2008
10/23/08
8:20
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- I've seen enough halls of fame to know what a great one looks like.

The better ones I always return to. In the past two years I've visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, National Baseball Hall of Fame, Hockey Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame. I've attended induction ceremonies at most.

But the best I've seen belongs to the New England Patriots.

Before Monday night's game in Gillette Stadium, I had the chance to tour The Hall at Patriot Place, a dazzling collection of exhibits, multimedia presentations and high-tech interactive displays on 36,000-square feet.

The Hall at Patriot Place opened last month at a cost of roughly $24 million.

I took the tour with Pro Football Hall of Fame executive director Stephen A. Perry and vice president of communications and exhibits Joe Horrigan. Both were seeing The Hall at Patriot Place for the first time.

"This is first-class, on par with anything we've seen and better than most," Horrigan said. "It's a really remarkable use of space, really creative. Everyone in the industry is going towards a lot of these elements, from the traditional display to the interactive motif. This is what a visitor looks for when he goes to a museum.

"I'm stealing ideas as I go through here. They've scored a touchdown."

Bryan Morry, The Hall at Patriot Place's executive director, explained the vision wasn't a graveyard for artifacts. Patriots president Jonathan Kraft wanted to establish a destination that allowed fans and alumni to embrace the team's tradition.

As I passed through, I found guard John Hannah playing with one of the interactive kiosks. Hannah, in his gold Pro Football Hall of Fame blazer, was at the game for a halftime ceremony to honor linebacker Andre Tippett, who was enshrined in Canton this summer.

Hannah praised the Krafts for building a monument that celebrates the Patriots legacy.

There's plenty to look at: multimedia stations that can engage you for as long as your curiosity of Patriots history can handle, a 150-seat theater and all the standard displays of uniforms and hardware. Hanging from the rafters is the John Deere tractor convict Mark Henderson used to clear a spot for John Smith's infamous field goal to beat the Miami Dolphins in 1982

The Hall at Patriot Place also strives to be a New England football archive, including preps and colleges.

But the most impressive elements are interactive. Educated football fans will leave smarter than when they walked in. A presentation by Bill Belichick insightfully breaks down actual plays from the Patriots' playbook. You pick the play, and Belichick tells you why it works in detail.

Visitors also can listen to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels relay plays into a quarterback's helmet, step inside an actual-sized Patriots huddle to hear how plays are called and pick up sideline phones to hear how the coordinators communicate with players during the game.

"Museums are no longer a place where you go to view dinosaur bones," Horrigan said. "They expect the dinosaur to move, breathe and shoot fire. That's what happens here."

The Patriots do not have a ring of fame. The Hall at Patriot Place is the ultimate team honor a Patriot can receive.

There are 13 members: tackle Bruce Armstrong, linebacker Nick Buoniconti, kicker Gino Cappelletti, tight end Ben Coates, defensive lineman Bob Dee, quarterback Steve Grogan, Hannah, cornerback Mike Haynes, tackle Jim Lee Hunt, receiver Stanley Morgan, linebacker Steve Nelson, quarterback Babe Parilli and Tippett.

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