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Bill Belichick's 10 best losses ranked by how happy they made NFL fans

When the Patriots lose, the rest of the country wins.

Bill Belichick doesn’t lose often, but when he does it generates enough schadenfreude to feed a nation.

Belichick and the New England Patriots are in the middle of the most successful run of all time, winning five Super Bowls (and playing in two more) in the coach’s 17-year tenure. New England and all-world quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t missed an AFC Championship since 2010. After one of the most talked-about offseasons in franchise history, this upcoming season is likely to keep that streak alive.

But while five of the club’s seasons under its ornery headmaster have ended with championship parades on Boston’s duck boats, 12 more have left nothing but the bitter taste of failure (though, if the Patriots were the Indianapolis Colts, they would have also ended with some sad banners). That’s a bitter pill for fans in New England to swallow, but a breath of fresh air for the rest of the NFL-loving universe. The Patriots’ frequent trips to the league’s stratosphere has made their plummeting crashes back to Earth all the more satisfying for Belichick and Brady haters.

Not all Patriots losses are considered equal (the same for Belichick — how many people outside the Rust Belt really remember his five-year stint with the Cleveland Browns?). Botching a Week 17 matchup after clinching a playoff spot doesn’t have the same kind of gravity as a Super Bowl loss. Losing to the Miami Dolphins’ gadget offense isn’t nearly as sweet as a straight-up Cincinnati Bengals trucking that makes you question whether Brady is headed to the glue factory for old quarterbacks.

With that in mind, 10 of the future Hall of Famer’s 80 losses with the Patriots (an average of only 4.7 per season, as if the rarity needed to be highlighted) rise above the rest. New England fans, take this as a compliment — but maybe skip this list, too.

10. 26-20 (OT) vs. the New York Jets in the 2015 regular season

Belichick’s unorthodox moves often work out brilliantly, but the gratification that ensues when they backfire could fill the Grand Canyon. The most recent example came in 2015, when the Patriots finished regulation of a Week 16 game against New York tied, 20-20. New England won the coin toss and ... elected to kick off? No, that can’t be right.

Wait, yup. That happened. And then the Jets drove 80 yards for a game-winning touchdown, denying Brady the chance to even touch the ball in overtime.

The loss would cost the Patriots home-field advantage in the playoffs, a point that looms large in No. 4 on this list.

9. 34-20 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2004 regular season

The Patriots won 21 straight games in the leadup to their date at Heinz Field, winning Super Bowl XXXVIII in the process and setting an NFL record. It turns out the only 22 they’d see in Week 6 was Duce Staley, as the Steelers tailback ran for 125 yards in a blowout win. New England wasn’t sad about the loss for long, however. A 41-27 victory in the rematch in Pittsburgh that January made the Patriots AFC champions.

8. 41-14 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2014 regular season

A Monday Night Football showcase gave the Chiefs the opportunity to wipe the floor with the Patriots, holding Brady to a paltry 159 passing yards and a pair of interceptions. Jimmy Garoppolo made his regular season debut and shined in garbage time, completing six of his seven passes and spurring discussion about whether Brady’s time in the spotlight would soon come to an end.


It would not.

7. 33-14 vs. the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 Wild Card round

Belichick has struggled with the Ravens, going just 2-2 against them in the postseason and needing a missed 32-yard field goal to prevent a possible three-game losing streak. Baltimore has blown out the Pats twice in Gillette Stadium, but never as thoroughly as it did in January 2010 when Ray Rice led his team to a 24-0 first-quarter advantage. New England managed just 196 total yards in defeat.

6. 28-21 vs. the New York Jets in the 2010 Divisional round

Losing to your arch rival hurts. Losing to noted loudmouth and frequent playoff spectator Rex Ryan hurts even more. Brady wound up getting outplayed by Mark Sanchez as the Pats suffered a stinging defeat at Gillette Stadium. Wide receiver Wes Welker put his best foot forward, but it wasn’t enough to extend his team’s season.

5. 35-34 vs. the Indianapolis Colts in the 2009 regular season

Facing fourth-and-two from his own 28-yard line and protecting a 34-28 lead, Belichick decided to go for it rather than punt the ball back to the Colts and Peyton Manning. Lucas Oil Stadium, in only its second year of operation, erupted when a quick pass to Kevin Faulk was stopped short of the first-down marker. Manning led his team 29 yards to take the lead on a one-yard pass to Reggie Wayne and would later carry Indianapolis to Super Bowl XLIV. The Patriots would bow out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round.

4. 20-18 vs. the Denver Broncos in the 2015 AFC Championship

The argument over greatest kicker in Patriots’ history comes down to two names: Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. The latter’s missed extra point at Mile High Stadium in 2016 may be the evidence that drops him to second place. If he hits that 33-yard kick in the first quarter, this game likely goes into overtime and gives New England a chance to defend its Super Bowl XLIX title. Instead, Brady’s two-point conversion with 12 seconds left failed, ending his season.

3. 38-34 vs. the Indianapolis Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship

The Patriots had owned Indianapolis in the postseason under Belichick, and 2006 appeared to be no different as New England took a 21-3 lead midway through the second quarter. Manning found another gear, answering questions about his postseason leadership by leading a furious comeback that included 32 second-half points.

The Colts reigned supreme and earned the opportunity to face Rex Grossman in the Super Bowl. Unsurprisingly, they won.

2. 21-17 vs. the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI

The 2012 sequel failed to live up to the original, but while the Giants’ second Super Bowl win over Belichick wasn’t quite The Godfather Part II, it was at least on par with Crank 2: High Voltage. That, of course, leads us to ...

1. 17-14 vs. the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII

A generation of children around the world got crate of 19-0 T-shirts, and the Giants’ defensive line proved the best way to beat Brady was to beat the crap out of Brady. New York avenged a Week 17 defeat and derailed what would have been the single greatest season in NFL history. The record-setting Patriots offense, having scored nearly 37 points per game in the regular season, was held to just 14 as Brady was sacked five times.

But Eli Manning earned his status as Brady-slayer with his own brand of heroics.


Aided by a pair of miracles from the football gods themselves (David Tyree’s helmet catch above, Asante Samuel’s dropped interception), Manning led the Giants 83 yards in two minutes to set up a game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress that gave New York its first Super Bowl in nearly two decades and destroyed New England’s dream of perfection.

And with that, the Patriots-hating universe was at ease.