New England Patriots

By Matt McCarthy,

All this week at, we’re taking a look back at the most memorable divisional round playoff games the Patriots have played in the last two decades.

So far, we’ve relived the 2004 defensive domination of Peyton Manning and the Colts, the comeback against the Chargers in 2006, and the 2014 thriller between the Patriots and the Ravens.

Today, we remember the 2003 divisional matchup against the Tennessee Titans, the coldest game in Patriots history (4 degrees at kickoff, -10 windchill).

Key moments:

The Patriots opened up the scoring with the most memorable play of Bethel Johnson’s short-lived career in Foxboro. Tom Brady threw a dime to Johnson on a 41-yard post route to put the Pats ahead 7-0.

The Pats defense delivered as they always seemed to do in the early 2000’s. Rodney Harrison picked off Steve McNair, a play that led to a Patriots drive and Antowain Smith touchdown run.

With the Patriots leading 14-7, Richard Seymour blocked a 31-yard field goal attempt just before the half. Three points ended up being the difference in the game.

The Titans would tie the game late in the third, but Adam Vinatieri’s 46-yard field goal with just over four minutes to play proved to be the game winner.

The Titans threatened to tie or win the game on their final possession, but imploded after entering Patriots territory. A McNair intentional grounding penalty and a holding infraction put Tennessee in third and fourth and long, before a Harrison blitz forced McNair, the NFL co-MVP in 2003, to throw a final prayer that was bobbled and knocked away by Asante Samuel.

FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 10: Quarterback Steve McNair #9 of the Tennessee Titans throws the ball during the game against the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional playoffs on January 10, 2004 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Titans 17-14 to advance to the AFC Championship game. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

The Patriots won 17-14.

Quote of the game:

“Everyone was talking about their defense. I thought it sucked.” Titans Guard Zach Piller said after the Patriots held his team to 14 points. “It’d be a shock to me if they were holding the trophy at the end of all of this…I will not leave this stadium thinking we got beat by a better team. I think that that team is not a very good team and it sickens me that we lost to them.”

The Patriots won their second Super Bowl three weeks later.

Final stats:


Tom Brady: 21/41, 201 yards, 1 touchdown

Antowain Smith: 16 carries, 69 yards, 1 touchdown.

Bethel Johnson: 2 catches, 55 yards, 1 touchdown.


Steve McNair: 18/26, 210 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception.

Eddie George: 16 carries, 48 yards.

Derrick Mason: 7 catches, 90 yards, 1 touchdown.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.