Fans give their all at Pats’ rally
Diehards out in droves to support another Super Bowl run by Brady & Co.
FOXBORO – For many who traversed through Patriot Place on Saturday morning, they were quick to take note of the history around them. Five Super Bowl championship banners hang inside the stadium and the image of the New England Patriots’ five Lombardi Trophies was plastered to the side of the team’s Pro Shop.
While many pundits and prognosticators believe that the Patriots’ dynasty – their run of success since the turn of the century – may be winding down, the fans who attended Saturday’s “Everything We Got” rally outside of Gillette Stadium were looking forward to yet more victories rather than a potentially unsure future.
The Patriots today are set to host the visiting Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. It’s the ninth consecutive year in which Gillette Stadium plays host to a Divisional Play- off matchup. As a point of reference, the last time the Patriots did not welcome a visiting team for a second-round playoff matchup – January 2010 – Barack Obama had just begun the second year of his first term as president, the iPhone 4 was still five months from being stocked on store shelves, “Avatar” was shattering box office records, and the Chargers were known as the San Diego Chargers.
That’s to say that much can change over the course of nine years, but it seems that few constants remain – death, taxes, and the Patriots hosting a Divisional Weekend playoff contest.
As for the history between the Patriots and Chargers, these two teams have had plenty of battles for yardage despite being separated by roughly 2,500 miles. The Patriots eliminated the Chargers in consecutive postseasons – 2007 and 2008 – and the two have squared off 11 times since the turn of the century, with the Patriots winning eight times in 11 tries.
Who was the team that surrendered Tom Brady’s first career touchdown pass? The Chargers. Which squad snapped New England’s then 12-game winning streak from 2001 into 2002? The Chargers. Who brought the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak to an end in October of 2005? You don’t need a crystal ball to find out. Yep, it was the Chargers.
The history between these two dates all the way back to 1960, when the Los Angeles Chargers and Boston Patriots were among the original eight franchises in the American Football League. The Chargers in 1964 won their only championship – AFL or NFL – when they thrashed the Patriots, 51-10 in the league’s fourth championship game.
So despite playing on opposite ends of the continent, it’s safe to say these two teams know each other quite well.
Among those who traveled across the country, leavting the 60-degree weather of southern California for the 20s in New England, were San Diego natives Christian Nava and German Chacon. They proudly wore their tChargers gear around Patriot dPlace on Saturday afternoon, the powder blue and gold noticeable among a sea of red and navy blue.
The duo landed in Boston around 6 on Saturday morning and toured Patriot Place to familiarize themselves before today’s tailgate and game. However, they were tquite unprepared for the dchange in climate, as Nava was wearing shorts.
“I didn’t know my face dwould get this numb this early,” Chacon said with a laugh.
Despite the frigid temperatures potentially providing a challenge for their Chargers, the pair were plendty confident about the team heading into today’s matchup.
“Most of (the players) went to college in Ohio or on the east coast,” Nava said, noting that the cold shouldn’t be a factor in the result. “I’m extremely looking forward to it all. The Chargers fans are getting together for a tailgate. We’re the few unique ones.”
South Attleboro resident and former Pawtucket native Don Brierley didn’t mind Saturday’s temperatures in the mid-20s or today’s forecast in the low-20s. Because when you’ve braved the coldest home game in Patriots history, everything else can seem like a day at the beach.
Brierley was in attendance on Jan. 10, 2004 when the Patriots toppled the Tennessee Titans, 17-14, in that year’s playoffs. At four degrees, it still stands as the most frigid home game in franchise history. Yet while the thought of sitting in single-digit temperatures sends a shiver down some spines, Brierley remembers it fondly, saying it’s his favorite memory of the Patriots’ current run of excellence.
“I had layer on layer on layer on layer,” Brierley recalled. “I had hand warmers everywhere, shoe warmers, my mask, but I look back on it fondly.”
As for today’s game, he said he’s “all fired up” to watch at home with a group of family and friends. He’s forecasting a 35-30 victory for the Patriots and he’s thinking positive about the next round.
“Yes, I think they’re going to win the Super Bowl,” he said.
Chacon, meanwhile, said he feels Los Angeles boasts a balanced team that could serve as a road block on New England’s path to Super Bowl LIII. He predicted a 24-21 victory for the Chargers, saying the game would be won on a last-second field goal and that the kick will “change our history.”
Nava added that the game was about the Chargers’ talent versus the history of the Patriots’ dynasty. He also was confident, predicting a 24-17 win for his team.
Wayne Travis of Norfolk, Mass. said he was looking forward to “a little fun” at the rally, as he signed his name onto a giant banner that will hang outside the Patriots’ locker room.
“I hope it’s this cold tomorrow...” he said on Saturday. “We have home-field advantage. It’s going to be a good game.”
Travis knows a good game when he sees one. He attended home games for 15 years and went on the road to the Patriots’ first three Super Bowl appearances. But now, he says, he’s more likely to be found in his “man cave” than at the stadium on game day.
However, as he’s seen the decade-plus of success for the franchise, he knows all good things eventually come to an end.
“I’m usually very positive but this year I’m not,” he said. “I don’t know, I didn’t get the feeling like I normally have.”
Despite feeling tentative about today’s game and the franchise’s future, he’s still calling for a close win – 3327 – for the home team.
“If Tom Brady wins another (Super Bowl), I think his wife will ask him to retire,” he said of Brady’s wife, Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen. “And I don’t blame her.”
The matchup between the Chargers and Patriots kicks off at 1:05 p.m. today on your local CBS affiliate.
Members of the Patriots’ Militia were on hand for Saturday’s rally. The two hope to be busy with their post-touchdown festivities this afternoon. More in Sports, PAGE B1.
Above, a balloon version of New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady waves to fans, many of whom lined up behind him to win a free prize at Saturday’s rally outside Gillette Stadium. Below, a balloon version of Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski looks on as fans sign their names and well-wishes to a banner that will hang outside the team’s lockerroom prior to today’s playoff game against the Chargers.