Programming Note: On Sunday, 98.5 The Sports Hub will air the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans from Week 6 of the 2009 season, notable for Tom Brady's six touchdown passes in an October snowstorm and the Patriots' red throwback uniforms. Click here for the full on-air schedule.
By Sean Sylver, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The 2009 Patriots season was memorable for a number of reasons. In hindsight, not a lot of them were good. Despite a 10-6 regular season record, it was perhaps the most disjointed campaign of Bill Belichick's tenure in New England.
You had 4th and 2. Wes Welker shredding his knee in a meaningless game. A group of players (including Randy Moss) sent home after arriving late to a team meeting. An OT loss to Josh McDaniels and the Broncos. To cap it off, Ray Rice went 83 yards to the house on the first play of the postseason and the Patriots were sent home on Wild Card Weekend.
But there's at least one positive memory that lingers - one of touchdown celebrations amid falling snowflakes. Only this wasn’t your customary frosty late-season Foxboro tilt, but rather the freak storm of Oct. 18, 2009.
Tom Brady, still finding his footing after knee surgery, threw for six touchdowns that day - including an NFL record five in the second quarter alone - as the Pats cruised to a 59-0 victory over the Titans.
"That’s easily one of the most fun and aesthetically beautiful games I’ve ever attended."
"Fun, because it was like watching a video game. Brady threw it all over the yard and ended with six touchdowns, one of which was a flea flicker to Moss that was as entertaining as it was hilarious.
"Aesthetically beautiful, because both teams were wearing their AFL throwbacks. The old red Pat Patriot unis and the powder blue Oilers with that snowy backdrop? Stunning. To this day, it might be the prettiest sporting event I’ve ever been lucky enough to attend."
My friend Jay Hall was also at the game, hours after the bar closed at a mutual friend's wedding reception.
"I was at my college roommate's wedding in Connecticut and a relative of his wanted to unload the tickets. Everyone knew the weather was going to be terrible. So I woke up Sunday morning, drove to some mall in East Hartford to pick up the tickets and then shot home."
"I was a single guy in grad school at the time, so I had no concept of reality. That included dressing appropriately for weather. I threw on a sweatshirt, gym pants and sneakers. None of which had any waterproof qualities whatsoever."
"We were soaked by the time we wrapped up tailgating," Murray remembers. "But, come on. Who the hell expected a full-blown snowstorm - in the middle of October?"
Brady piloted pigskins through the falling flakes, dropping them gently into the waiting arms of receivers time and time again, as if fans at home were watching a replay review all afternoon. The six scores matched his season total through five previous games.
"It was great to see Brady light it up after a somewhat wonky start to the season where he's coming off the torn ACL," thought Murray.
"Some of the worst weather conditions for a passing game, and he made it look easy," recalls Hall.
Meanwhile, the Titans defense looked like they were on ice skates - several steps behind receivers and unable to corral backs Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk on their respective rumbles to the end zone.
Our own Matt Dolloff enjoyed the game in the comfort of his apartment at the time, but still remembers it fondly and vividly.
"I was still in college and I wasn't too involved in sports media yet - the Sports Hub was still brand new - so I was still able to just enjoy the Patriots purely as a fan," said Dolloff. "It's weird that this game happened during the most disappointing season of the Brady-Belichick era, because it was so enjoyable as a fan and visually it's so distinctive with the snow and the throwback uniforms and all that.
"I still say to my friends every now and then, 'Brady is gonna put up huge fantasy numbers today', in Jonathan Kraft's voice. That's still my favorite line from him."
The Pats scored on seven straight possessions. By the third quarter, Brian Hoyer came in for his debut. Even the rookie had more success than Tennessee signal-caller Kerry Collins (2-of-12 for minus-7 yards and an interception).
The blowout tied for the biggest margin of victory since the 1970 merger. And for a moment, the Patriots, navigating Brady's injury and the offseason departures of several key veterans and coaches, looked formidable once again.
The Pats would run their record to 6-2 before surrendering multiple 17-point leads in Indianapolis, starting a slide where they lost three out of four games. A 38-17 Week 12 defeat in New Orleans was the nadir for Murray.
"I also attended [that game]," said Murray, "and realized - oh, this team has no shot this year.
"Unfortunately, I ended up correct in my assessment."
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can find him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.