Living today in the Belichick era, it may be hard to believe there was a time when the Patriots put the ink in stink or when New England was indifferent about them. On Columbus Day 1973 we went to get tickets for a game later in the season. The season was almost over already since the Pats were 1-4 to nobody’s surprise. We got tickets for the last home game against the lowly San Diego Chargers.
After getting tickets. we were able to go onto the field and play ball as players were leaving practice. I met quarterback Jim Plunkett in the parking lot. No security – why would be there? Who would come to see the Patriots?
At the same time, however, this was the first year of the Chuck Fairbanks era and the 1973 team included elements of the team that would become perennial contenders in a few years.
The Patriots came into the game 4-7 having just beat Green Bay and Houston which was only the fourth time that the Pats won consecutive games over the last 6 seasons. The San Diego Chargers were even worse at 2-8-1 and had benched aging Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas in favor of a rookie quarterback (Dan Fouts).
The Game: After misakes gave the Chargers an early 14-3 lead, the Patriots came back with four touchdowns to win 30-14.
There were two big surprises for us at the game. The first was the discovery that we bought tickets in the one section of the stadium that got zero sun, a point that hit us pretty quickly with wind-chill in the 20’s as we sat on the cold aluminum seats.
The other surprise was 5 foot 5 inch Mini-Mack Herron who ran a kick-off back for a touchdown – the first in Patriot history. The next year he would set an NFL record for all-purpose yardage. Oddly enough, a few years later we saw Mike Haynes return the first punt for a touchdown.
The Rest of the Story: The Patriots lost the remaining two games of the season at Buffalo and Baltimore. In the Buffalo game, O.J. Simpson ran for 219 yards putting him within striking distance of breaking the 2,000 yard mark.
It would not be until 1976 that the Patriots would emerge going from 3-11 to 11-3. The Patriots were en route to beating the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the playoffs when the 7th worst call in playoff history saved the Raiders from defeat, paving the way for their ultimate Super Bowl victory.
MACK HERRON HIGHLIGHTS
7TH WORST PLAYOFF CALL
Last year the U.S. National Team fired its coach after blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 to Mexico at the Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The fourth goal (starting at 4:00) reflects a total breakdown of US defense and is hard to watch even now.
THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW . . .
Under a new coach, this week the U.S. team won for the first time on Mexican soil, thanks to an incredible performance by goalkeeper Tim Howard.. The win ended a 24-game winless streak (0-23-1) over 75 years.