AFC Championship Game
The AFC Championship Game is the annual championship game of the American Football Conference and one of the two semi-final playoff games of the National Football League, the largest professional American football league in the United States. The game is played on the penultimate Sunday in January by the two remaining playoff teams, following the AFC postseason's first two rounds; the AFC champion advances to face the winner of the National Football Conference Championship Game in the Super Bowl. The game was established as part of the 1970 merger between the NFL and the American Football League, with the merged league realigning into two conferences. Since 1984, each winner of the AFC Championship Game has received the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the founder of both the AFL and the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Hunt; the first AFC Championship Game was played following the 1970 regular season after the merger between the NFL and the American Football League. The game is considered the successor to the former AFL Championship, its game results are listed with that of its predecessor in the annual NFL Record and Fact Book.
Since the pre-merger NFL consisted of six more teams than the AFL, a realignment was required as part of the merger to create two conferences with an equal number of teams: The NFL's Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers joined the ten former AFL teams to form the AFC. Every AFC team except the Houston Texans has played in an AFC Championship Game at least once; the Seattle Seahawks, who have been members in both the AFC and the NFC, hold the distinction of appearing in both conference title games, a loss in the AFC conference title game to the Los Angeles Raiders for Super Bowl XVIII and, in their first appearance in a NFC conference title game, a win over the Carolina Panthers for Super Bowl XL. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most appearances in the AFC Championship Game at 16, with 11 of those games being in Pittsburgh, the most for either conference; the New England Patriots have won the most AFC Championships at 11, have played in a record eight straight AFC title games.
At the end of each regular season, a series of playoff games involving the top six teams in the AFC are conducted. In the current NFL playoff structure, this consists of the four division champions and two wild card teams; the two teams remaining following the Wild Card round and the divisional round play in the AFC Championship game. The site of the game was determined on a rotating basis. Since the 1975–76 season, the site of the AFC Championship has been based on playoff seeding based on the regular season won-loss record, with the highest surviving seed hosting the game. A wild card team can only host the game if both participants are wild cards, in which case the fifth seed would host the sixth seed; such an instance has never occurred in the NFL. Beginning with 1984–85 season, the winner of the AFC Championship Game has received the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named after the founder of the AFL; the original trophy consisted of a wooden base with a sculpted AFC logo in the front and a sculpture of various football players in the back.
For the 2010–11 NFL playoffs, the Lamar Hunt Trophy and the George Halas Trophy, awarded to the NFC Champion, were redesigned by Tiffany & Co. at the request of the NFL, in an attempt to make both awards more significant. The trophies are now a new, silver design with the outline of a hollow football positioned on a small base to more resemble the Vince Lombardi Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Super Bowl. In recent years Conference championship rings are awarded to members of the team who wins the AFC or NFC championship since they are the winners of the conference though they may not follow it up with a win in the Super Bowl. Numbers in parentheses in the table are AFC Championships. Bold indicates. Numbers in parentheses in the city and stadium column is the number of times that metropolitan area and stadium has hosted an AFC Championship, respectively.^ a: Overtime ^ b: The Seahawks were members of the NFC in 1976 and members of the AFC from 1977 to 2001, before rejoining the NFC in 2002.
Including their appearances in the NFC Championship Game, they hold a combined 3–1 record between both Conference Championship Games.^ c: The Buccaneers were members of the AFC in 1976 before moving to the NFC in 1977.^ d: Includes appearances during their first tenure in Oakland, where they went 2–5 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts are 2–3 in AFC Championship Games^ f: Includes appearances as the Houston Oilers, where they went 0–2 in AFC Championship Games. Since moving to Tennessee in 1997, they are 1–1 in AFC Championship Games. Most victories: 11**.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are a professional American football team based in the Greater Boston area. The Patriots compete in the National Football League as a member club of the league's American Football Conference East division; the team plays its home games at Gillette Stadium in the town of Foxborough, located 21 miles southwest of downtown Boston, Massachusetts and 20 miles northeast of downtown Providence, Rhode Island. The Patriots are headquartered at Gillette Stadium. An original member of the American Football League, the Patriots joined the NFL in the 1970 merger of the two leagues; the team changed its name from the original Boston Patriots after relocating to Foxborough in 1971. The Patriots played their home games at Foxboro Stadium from 1971 to 2001 moved to Gillette Stadium at the start of the 2002 season; the Patriots' rivalry with the New York Jets is considered one of the most bitter rivalries in the NFL. Since the arrival of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady in 2000, the Patriots have since become one of the most successful teams in NFL history, winning 16 AFC East titles in 18 seasons since 2001, without a losing season in that period.
The franchise has since set numerous notable records, including most wins in a ten-year period, an undefeated 16-game regular season in 2007, the longest winning streak consisting of regular season and playoff games in NFL history, the most consecutive division titles won by a team in NFL history. The team owns the record for most Super Bowls reached and won by a head coach–quarterback tandem, most Super Bowl appearances overall, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins, tied with the Denver Broncos for the most Super Bowl losses. On November 16, 1959, Boston business executive Billy Sullivan was awarded the eighth and final franchise of the developing American Football League; the following winter, locals were allowed to submit ideas for the Boston football team's official name. The most popular choice – and the one that Sullivan selected – was the "Boston Patriots," with "Patriots" referring to those colonists of the Thirteen Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution and in July 1776 declared the United States of America an independent nation.
Thereafter, artist Phil Bissell of The Boston Globe developed the "Pat Patriot" logo. The Patriots struggled for most of their years in the AFL, they never had a regular home stadium. Nickerson Field, Harvard Stadium, Fenway Park, Alumni Stadium all served as home fields during their time in the American Football League, they played in only one AFL championship game, following the 1963 season, in which they lost to the San Diego Chargers 51–10. They did not appear again in an NFL post-season game for another 13 years; when the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, the Patriots were placed in the American Football Conference East division, where they still play today. The following year, the Patriots moved to a new stadium in Foxborough, which would serve as their home for the next 30 years; as a result of the move, they announced they would change their name from the Boston Patriots to the Bay State Patriots. The name was rejected by the NFL and on March 22, 1971, the team announced they would change its geographic name to New England.
During the 1970s, the Patriots had some success, earning a berth to the playoffs in 1976—as a wild card team—and in 1978—as AFC East champions. They lost in the first round both times. In 1985, they returned to the playoffs, made it all the way to Super Bowl XX, which they lost to the Chicago Bears 46–10. Following their Super Bowl loss, they lost in the first round; the team would not make the playoffs again for eight more years. During the 1990 season, the Patriots went 1–15, they changed ownership three times in the ensuing 14 years, being purchased from the Sullivan family first by Victor Kiam in 1988, who sold the team to James Orthwein in 1992. Though Orthwein's period as owner was short and controversial, he did oversee major changes to the team, first with the hiring of former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells in 1993. Orthwein and his marketing team commissioned the NFL to develop a new visual identity and logo, changed their primary colors from the traditional red and blue to blue and silver for the team uniforms.
Orthwein intended to move the team to his native St. Louis, but instead sold the team in 1994 for $175 million to its current owner, Robert Kraft. Since the Patriots have sold out every home game in both Foxboro Stadium and Gillette Stadium. By 2009, the value of the franchise had increased by over $1 billion, to a Forbes magazine estimated value of $1.361 billion, third highest in the NFL only behind the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. As of July 2018, the Patriots are the sixth most valuable sports franchise in the world according to Forbes magazine with a value of $3.7 billion. Continuing on as head coach under Kraft's ownership, Parcells would bring the Patriots to two playoff appearances, including Super Bowl XXXI, which they lost to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 35–21. Pete Carroll, Parcells's successor, would take the team to the playoffs twice in 1997 and 1998 before being dismissed as head coach after the 1999 season; the Patriots hired current head coach Bill Belichick, who had served as defensive coordinator under Parcells including during Super Bowl XXXI, in 2000.
Their new home field, Gillette Stadium, opened in 2002 to
2005 NFL season
The 2005 NFL season was the 86th regular season of the National Football League. Regular season play was held from September 8, 2005 to January 1, 2006; the regular season saw the first regular season game played outside the United States, as well as the New Orleans Saints being forced to play elsewhere due to damage to the Superdome and the entire New Orleans area by Hurricane Katrina. The playoffs began on January 7. New England's streak of 10 consecutive playoff wins and chance at a third straight Super Bowl title was ended in the Divisional Playoff Round by the Denver Broncos, the NFL title was won by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21–10 in Super Bowl XL at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on February 5 for their fifth Super Bowl win; this marked the first time that a sixth-seeded team, who by the nature of their seeding would play every game on the road, would advance to and win the Super Bowl. The season formally concluded with the Pro Bowl, the league's all-star game, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 12.
This marked the final season that ABC held the rights to televise Monday Night Football after thirty-six years of airing the series. When the TV contracts were renewed near the end of the season, the rights to broadcast Monday Night Football were awarded to Disney-owned corporate sibling ESPN. NBC bought the right to televise Sunday Night Football, marking the first time that the network broadcast NFL games since Super Bowl XXXII in 1998. Meanwhile, CBS and Fox renewed their television contracts to the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference packages, respectively; the 2005 season featured the first regular season game played outside the United States when a San Francisco 49ers – Arizona Cardinals game was played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on October 2. The game drew an NFL regular season record of 103,467 paid fans, it was a home game for the Cardinals because the team sold out at their then-home field, Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. This season was the last year.
Due to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to the Louisiana Superdome and the greater New Orleans area, the New Orleans Saints’ entire 2005 home schedule was played at different venues while the Saints set up temporary operations in San Antonio, Texas. The Saints’ first home game scheduled for September 18 against the New York Giants was moved to September 19 at Giants Stadium, where the Giants won 27–10; the impromptu “Monday Night doubleheader” with the game scheduled was a success, was made a permanent part of the schedule the next year when Monday Night Football made the move to ESPN. As a result of the unscheduled doubleheader, the NFL designated its second weekend, September 18 and 19, as “Hurricane Relief Weekend’, with fund raising collections at all of the league's games; the Saints’ remaining home games were split between the Alamodome in San Antonio and Louisiana State University's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Being forced to travel to 13 of their 16 games and practice in substandard facilities and conditions in San Antonio, the Saints finished 3–13, their worst season since 1999.
The last time an NFL franchise had to play at an alternate site was in 2002, when the Chicago Bears played home games in Champaign, Illinois, 120 miles away, due to the reconstruction of Soldier Field. The last NFL team to abandon their home city during a season was the hapless 1952 Dallas Texans, whose franchise was returned to the league after drawing several poor crowds at the Cotton Bowl, they played their final “home” game at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, against the Bears on Thanksgiving. The Sunday, October 23 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins at Dolphins Stadium was rescheduled to Friday, October 21 at 7:00 pm EDT to beat Hurricane Wilma's arrival to the Miami, Florida area; the Chiefs won the game, 30–20, became the first visiting team to travel and play on the same day. Since the game was planned for Sunday afternoon, it is one of the few times in history that the Dolphins wore their road jerseys in a home game played at night; the “horse-collar tackle”, in which a defender grabs inside the back or side of an opponent's shoulder pads and pulls that player down, is prohibited.
Named the “Roy Williams Rule” after the Dallas Cowboys safety whose horse collar tackles during the 2004 season caused serious injuries to Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tyrone Calico, Baltimore Ravens running back Musa Smith. Peel-back blocks below the waist and from the back are now illegal. Unnecessary roughness would be called for blocks away from the play on punters or kickers, similar to the same protection quarterbacks have after interceptions; when time is stopped by officials prior to the snap for any reason while time is in, the play clock resumes with the same amount of time that remained on it – with a minimum of 10 seconds. The play-clock would be reset to 25 seconds. During field goal and extra point attempts, the defensive team will be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct if it calls consecutive timeouts in an attempt to "ice" the kicker; the second timeout request was only denied by officials, thus could be used to distract the kickers.
Players cannot run, dive into, cut, or throw
2006–07 NFL playoffs
The National Football League playoffs for the 2006 season began on January 6, 2007. The postseason tournament concluded with the Indianapolis Colts defeating the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, 29–17, on February 4, at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Within each conference, the four division winners and the two wild card teams qualified for the playoffs; the four division winners are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, the wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. The NFL does not use a fixed bracket playoff system, there are no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seed wild card, the fourth seed hosts the fifth; the 1 and 2 seeds from each conference receive a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosts the worst surviving seed from the first round, while the number 2 seed will play the other team.
The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference. * Indicates overtime victory Under the new U. S. television broadcast contracts that took effect starting this season, NBC replaced ABC as the network televising the first two Wild Card playoff games. Fox televised the rest of the NFC games. CBS broadcast the rest of the AFC playoff games and Super Bowl XLI. Despite quarterback Peyton Manning's three interceptions, the Indianapolis Colts out-gained the Kansas City Chiefs in total yards, 435–126, first downs, 23–8. Indianapolis's defense forced three turnovers, four sacks, prevented Kansas City from gaining a single first down until late in the third quarter; the game was never in question despite Manning's turnovers as Indy dominated Kansas City from start to finish to earn a trip to Baltimore.
The Colts opened up the scoring on their first drive of the game with Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal. The next time they had the ball, they drove 68 yards to the Kansas City 2-yard line, but had to settle for another Vinatieri field goal to give them a 6–0 lead. After another Kansas City punt, Chiefs cornerback Ty Law intercepted a pass from Manning and returned it 43 yards to the Colts 9-yard line, but Kansas City failed to get the ball into the end zone with three rushing attempts and came up empty when Lawrence Tynes' 23-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright. After another interception thrown by Manning and another Kansas City punt, the Colts increased their lead to 9–0 by driving 33 yards and scoring on Vinatieri's 50-yard field goal on the last play of the first half; the Chiefs ended the half with no first downs. This was the first time in the modern era and the first time since 1960 that an NFL team had been held without an offensive first down in the first half of a playoff game.
On the Colts' opening possession of the second half, Manning threw his third interception of the game, but the Chiefs could not take advantage of the turnover and had to punt. Indianapolis drove 89 yards in 12 plays and scored with Joseph Addai's 6-yard touchdown run, giving them a 16–0 lead. Kansas City got their first first down of the game on their ensuing possession, driving 60 yards in eight plays. Trent Green finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez, completed a pass to tight end Kris Wilson for a successful two-point conversion to cut their deficit to within one touchdown, 16–8. However, the Colts increased their lead to 23–8 on a 71-yard, 9-play drive ending with Reggie Wayne's 5-yard touchdown reception. Indianapolis's defense forced three turnovers on the Chiefs' last three drives to clinch the victory. Dallas Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo, a four-year veteran who earned the starting job and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career during the regular season, botched the hold on a potential game-winning field goal with 1:19 left in the fourth quarter, allowing the Seattle Seahawks to escape with a victory.
Taking advantage of Dallas kicker Martín Gramática's opening kickoff, which went out-of-bounds and gave Seattle the ball at their own 40, the Seahawks marched down the field on their opening drive and scored with Josh Brown's 23-yard field goal. Dallas was forced to punt on their ensuing possession, but Cowboys defensive back Anthony Henry intercepted Seattle's next pass and returned it to the Seahawks 43-yard line, setting up Gramatica's 50-yard field goal to tie the game. Early in the second quarter, Seattle drove 54 yards and retook the lead with Brown's second field goal of the game. After an exchange of punts, the Cowboys took the lead. Aided by Jason Witten's 32-yard reception, Dallas drove 76 yards in ten plays and scored on Romo's 12-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton with only 11 seconds left in the half, giving the Cowboys a 10–6 lead. In the third quarter, Seattle drove 62 yards in 12 plays, featuring two fourth-down conversions by running back Shaun Alexander, scored with Matt Hasselbeck's 15-yard touchdown pass to Jerramy Stevens, giving them a 13–10 lead.
However, Dallas promptly took the lead right back after Miles Austin returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. Early in the final quarter, Dallas defensive back Roy Williams intercepted a pass from Hasselbeck at the Cowboys 43-yard line. Eight plays Gramatica kicked a 29-yard field goal to increase his team's lead to
American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada and known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. The offense, the team controlling the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with or passing the ball, while the defense, the team without control of the ball, aims to stop the offense's advance and aims to take control of the ball for themselves; the offense must advance at least ten yards in four downs, or plays, otherwise they turn over the football to the defense. Points are scored by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown or kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts for a field goal; the team with the most points at the end of a game wins. American football evolved in the United States, originating from the sports of association football and rugby football; the first match of American football was played on November 6, 1869, between two college teams and Princeton, under rules based on the association football rules of the time.
During the latter half of the 1870s, colleges playing association football switched to the Rugby Union code, which allowed carrying the ball. A set of rule changes drawn up from 1880 onward by Walter Camp, the "Father of American Football", established the snap, the line of scrimmage, eleven-player teams, the concept of downs; the sport is related to Canadian football, which evolved parallel and contemporary to the American game, most of the features that distinguish American football from rugby and soccer are present in Canadian football. American football as a whole is the most popular sport in the United States; the most popular forms of the game are professional and college football, with the other major levels being high school and youth football. As of 2012, nearly 1.1 million high school athletes and 70,000 college athletes play the sport in the United States annually all of them men, with a few exceptions. The National Football League, the most popular American football league, has the highest average attendance of any professional sports league in the world.
In the United States, American Football is called "football". The terms "gridiron" or "American football" are favored in English-speaking countries where other codes of football are popular, such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia. American football evolved from the sports of rugby football. Rugby football, like American football, is a sport where two competing teams vie for control of a ball, which can be kicked through a set of goalposts or run into the opponent's goal area to score points. What is considered to be the first American football game was played on November 6, 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton, two college teams; the game was played between two teams of 25 players each and used a round ball that could not be picked up or carried. It could, however, be kicked or batted with the feet, head or sides, with the ultimate goal being to advance it into the opponent's goal. Rutgers won the game 6 goals to 4. Collegiate play continued for several years in which matches were played using the rules of the host school.
Representatives of Yale, Columbia and Rutgers met on October 19, 1873 to create a standard set of rules for all schools to adhere to. Teams were set at 20 players each, fields of 400 by 250 feet were specified. Harvard abstained from the conference, as they favored a rugby-style game that allowed running with the ball. After playing McGill University using both Canadian and American rules, the Harvard players preferred the Canadian style having only 11 men on the field, running the ball without having to be chased by an opponent, the forward pass and using an oblong instead of a round ball. An 1875 Harvard–Yale game played under rugby-style rules was observed by two impressed Princeton athletes; these players introduced the sport to Princeton, a feat the Professional Football Researchers Association compared to "selling refrigerators to Eskimos." Princeton, Harvard and Columbia agreed to intercollegiate play using a form of rugby union rules with a modified scoring system. These schools formed the Intercollegiate Football Association, although Yale did not join until 1879.
Yale player Walter Camp, now regarded as the "Father of American Football", secured rule changes in 1880 that reduced the size of each team from 15 to 11 players and instituted the snap to replace the chaotic and inconsistent scrum. The introduction of the snap resulted in unexpected consequences. Prior to the snap, the strategy had been to punt. However, a group of Princeton players realized that, as the snap was uncontested, they now could hold the ball indefinitely to prevent their opponent from scoring. In 1881, both teams in a game between Yale-Princeton used this strategy to maintain their undefeated records; each team held the ball. This "block game" proved unpopular with the spectators and fans of both teams. A rule change was necessary to prevent this strategy from taking hold, a reversion to the scrum was considered. However, Camp proposed a rule in 1882 that limited each team to three downs, or tackles, to adva
2006 New England Patriots season
The 2006 New England Patriots season was the franchise's 37th season in the National Football League, the 47th overall and the 7th under head coach Bill Belichick. They finished with a 12–4 record and a division title before losing to the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs; the Patriots entered the season without their two starting wide receivers from 2005. Replacing them with Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney, signed as a street free agent in October. Back-to-back losses in November ended the team's streak of 57 games without consecutive losses, three games shy of the NFL record. With a 12–4 record and their fourth straight division title, the Patriots entered the playoffs as the fourth seed, defeating the New York Jets in the Wild Card Playoffs. A close win over the top-seeded San Diego Chargers on the road set the Patriots up to face their rival Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship. Despite opening up a 21–3 lead, the Patriots stumbled down the stretch at the RCA Dome and the Colts emerged with a 38–34 victory.
First-year defensive coordinator Eric Mangini was hired to be head coach of the New York Jets, marking the second year in a row that New England's defensive coordinator was hired as a head coach. He would be replaced as defensive coordinator by Dean Pees, linebackers coach for the club the past two years and as secondary coach by assistant secondary coach Joel Collier. Assistant offensive line coach Matt Patricia was moved to linebackers coach to replace Pees. Quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels was promoted to offensive coordinator after New England went one season without replacing former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Defensive coaching assistant Mike Judge was moved to an offensive coaching assistant, while Josh Boyer and Kevin Bickers joined the coaching staff as defensive and special teams coaching assistants, respectively. Free agency saw multiple departures for the Patriots, including long-time kicker Adam Vinatieri signing with the Indianapolis Colts, wide receiver David Givens signing with the Tennessee Titans.
Linebacker Willie McGinest, the Patriots' first-round pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, was released on March 9 and signed with the Cleveland Browns six days later. Tyrone Poole, Duane Starks, Chad Brown were released early in the offseason, with Brown returning for training camp before being cut again prior to the start of the season. Other free agency departures were André Davis, Christian Fauria, Matt Chatham, Tim Dwight, Tom Ashworth, Michael Stone; the preseason saw the eventual loss of Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Deion Branch. Branch held out all of mini-camp, training camp, the preseason and into the regular season before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks for a first-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft on September 11. During the preseason, on August 8, offensive lineman Ross Tucker was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a conditional late-round 2007 draft pick. Two weeks offensive tackle Brandon Gorin was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for another conditional 2007 draft choice, which became one of the Patriots' four picks of the 2007 sixth round.
As the Patriots made their final roster cut-downs, they traded running back Patrick Cobbs to the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 1 for a conditional 2007 draft pick. Both Tucker and Cobbs did not make their respective rosters and the Patriots did not receive the conditional picks; the offseason brought the arrival of fifth-year wide receiver Reche Caldwell from the San Diego Chargers, who would become the Patriots' leading receiver in 2006. Another acquisition came during the preseason, when the Patriots signed veteran linebacker Junior Seau, who had retired just four days earlier. Other arrivals were Mel Mitchell, Martin Gramatica, Tebucky Jones, Barry Gardner. Free agents or potential free agents Don Davis, Hank Poteat, Ross Tucker, Artrell Hawkins, Chad Scott, Troy Brown, Stephen Neal, Heath Evans were all re-signed, while Richard Seymour, Dan Koppen, Russ Hochstein all received long-term contract extensions. On June 5, the Patriots traded wide receiver Bethel Johnson to the New Orleans Saints for defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, the sixth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
Sullivan was arrested on June 30 in New Orleans, Louisiana for marijuana possession after being stopped for a vehicle music noise violation. Neither players made their respective rosters to begin the 2006 season. On September 2, wide receiver Doug Gabriel was traded to the Patriots from the Oakland Raiders in exchange for the Patriots' 2007 fifth-round pick; as of the Patriots' first training camp practice at Gillette Stadium on July 28, they had the NFL maximum of 80 players signed to their roster. Deion Branch did not count against the limit as he held out of training camp and was placed on the Reserve/Did Not Report list; the Patriots received eight total roster exemptions for the NFL Europe allocations of Earl Charles, Todd Mortensen, Rich Musinski, Zuriel Smith, Antwain Spann, Nick Steitz, Ray Ventrone. A Simulcast on WCVB-TV and WMUR-TV; the Patriots opened the regular season at home against the Buffalo Bills. On the first play of the game, quarterback Tom Brady was sacked by Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes, causing a fumble, recovered and returned as a five-yard touchdown to put the Bills ahead to an early lead.
New England would tie the game with a nine-yard Brady touchdown pass to wide receiver Troy Brown, but the Bills re-took the lead a 53-yard field goal by Bills kicke
The Super Bowl is the annual championship game of the National Football League where the champion of the National Football Conference competes against the champion of the American Football Conference. The game is the culmination of a regular season that begins in the late summer of the previous calendar year. Roman numerals are used to identify each game, rather than the year in which it is held. For example, Super Bowl I was played on January 1967, following the 1966 regular season; the sole exception to this naming convention tradition occurred with Super Bowl 50, played on February 7, 2016, following the 2015 regular season, the following year, the nomenclature returned to Roman numerals for Super Bowl LI, following the 2016 regular season. The upcoming Super Bowl is Super Bowl LIV, scheduled for February 2, 2020, following the 2019 regular season; the game was created as a part of the merger agreement between the NFL and its then-rival, the American Football League. It was agreed that the two's champion teams would play in the AFL–NFL World Championship Game until the merger was to begin in 1970.
After the merger, each league was redesignated as a "conference", the game has since been played between the conference champions to determine the NFL's league champion. The National Football Conference leads the league with 27 wins to 26 wins for the American Football Conference; the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots have the most Super Bowl championship titles, with six. The New England Patriots have the most Super Bowl appearances, with eleven. Tom Brady has six Super Bowl rings, the record for the most rings won by a single player; the day on which the Super Bowl is played, now considered by some as an unofficial American national holiday, is called "Super Bowl Sunday". It is the second-largest day for U. S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. In addition, the Super Bowl has been the most-watched American television broadcast of the year. S. television history are Super Bowls. In 2015, Super Bowl XLIX became the most-watched American television program in history with an average audience of 114.4 million viewers, the fifth time in six years the game had set a record, starting with Super Bowl XLIV, which itself had taken over the number-one spot held for 27 years by the final episode of M*A*S*H.
The Super Bowl is among the most-watched sporting events in the world all audiences being North American, is second to the UEFA Champions League final as the most watched annual sporting event worldwide. The NFL restricts the use of its "Super Bowl" trademark; because of the high viewership, commercial airtime during the Super Bowl broadcast is the most expensive of the year, leading to companies developing their most expensive advertisements for this broadcast. As a result and discussing the broadcast's commercials has become a significant aspect of the event. In addition, popular singers and musicians including Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Prince, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga have performed during the event's pre-game and halftime ceremonies. For four decades after its 1920 inception, the NFL fended off several rival leagues. In 1960, it encountered its most serious competitor; the AFL vied with the NFL for fans.
The original "bowl game" was the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, first played in 1902 as the "Tournament East-West football game" as part of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and moved to the new Rose Bowl Stadium in 1923. The stadium got its name from the fact that the game played there was part of the Tournament of Roses and that it was shaped like a bowl, much like the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut; the Tournament of Roses football game came to be known as the Rose Bowl Game. Exploiting the Rose Bowl Game's popularity, post-season college football contests were created for Miami, New Orleans, El Paso in 1935, for Dallas in 1937. By the time the first Super Bowl was played, the term "bowl" for any major American football game was well established. Lamar Hunt, owner of the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, first used the term "Super Bowl" to refer to the NFL-AFL championship game in the merger meetings. Hunt said the name was in his head because his children had been playing with a Super Ball toy.
In a July 25, 1966, letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt wrote, "I have kiddingly called it the'Super Bowl,' which can be improved upon." The leagues' owners chose the name "AFL–NFL Championship Game", but in July 1966 the Kansas City Star quoted Hunt in discussing "the Super Bowl — that's my term for the championship game between the two leagues", the media began using the term. Although the league stated in 1967 that "not many people like it", asking for suggestions and considering alternatives such as "Merger Bowl" and "The Game", the Associated Press reported that "Super Bowl" "grew and grew and grew-until it reached the point that there was Super Week, Super Sunday, Super Teams, Super Players, ad infinitum". "Super Bowl" became official beginning with the third annual game. Roman numerals were first affixed for the fifth edition, in January 1971. After the NFL's Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, some team owners feared for the future of the merger. At the time, many doubted the c