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The most meaningful case of the Patriots' stretching the rules was the eligible receiver trick they ran out as part of their playoff comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens, but that wasn't actually illegal.
(It was unfair to the Ravens, but that was the officiating crew's fault for not giving them appropriate time to substitute.)If you talk to NFL executives operating outside of New England, though, there's certainly a perception that the Patriots and Belichick aren't always operating on the level, even if they aren't specifically concerned about the Spygate or Deflategate scandals.
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Ten years ago this week, the 2007 New England Patriots took to the field for the first time and lost 13-10 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their preseason opener.
They lost the following week to the Tennessee Titans before winning their final two preseason games, all 16 regular-season contests and their first two postseason matchups.
While any team that prevails as two-touchdown underdogs is likely to engender a ton of fan support, the Patriots went a step beyond in terms of broad national appeal.
The NFL and Fox changed the theme of the Super Bowl that year from a Mardi Gras motif to "Hope, Heroes and Homeland." Patriots owner Robert Kraft jumped on board, saying before the Super Bowl, "I'd like to think it's part of God's handiwork we're in the Super Bowl and we have the name Patriots." After the game, Kraft let everyone in.
If you're unfortunate enough to find yourself reading a discussion about literally anything to do with the Patriots on social media, you'll encounter the same debate.
The Patriots are either totally innocent of all charges and subject to a massive conspiracy in an attempt to prevent them from Doing Their Jobs or a totally fraudulent franchise that would have been relegated to the Arena League years ago if it weren't for Belichick's unique ability to cheat his way to multiple championships.
After 20 consecutive Patriots victories, the New York Giants narrowly topped Bill Belichick's team to win one of the most dramatic Super Bowls in league history. They were, however, the most fascinating and compelling football team of the 21st century.
They raised the ceiling on what we believed a professional attack could accomplish, anticipating an offensive future for which they drew up the blueprints.