We’re down to single digits in our 25 day celebration after today, so before we finish up with a few more key pieces to the puzzle and a look back at the postseason wins, there’s one major aspect of the season we haven’t really talked much about yet.
Good ole Foxboro Stadium.
Most people my age don’t remember the old place with the metal benches, gross bathrooms, mud pits in the parking lot on rainy game days and the college-like atmosphere the stadium presented, but it was truly unique. It’s pretty strange to think that just five years following the run to Super Bowl XXXI Foxboro Stadium would see its final season of Patriots football in 2001.
Both Drew Bledsoe and Todd Rucci spoke about how important having those playoff games at home was that year, especially with the weather they ended up getting for both games against Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. Give it a listen if you haven’t already.
During the regular season, Foxboro Stadium saw over 59,000 people enter for a game five times, which at the time is a pretty significant number given the lack of success for the franchise throughout the early-mid 90’s. To give it some perspective, there were crowds of 46,000 at some points during the 1995 season. In fact, the two postseason crowds in 1996 – 60,190 and 60,188 showed up – were the two largest crowds in the stadium since Week 2 against Miami in 1995. Think about that…Patriots tickets are nearly impossible to come by these days. It’s truly a startling contrast.
Foxboro Stadium stood from 1971-2002, went through several ownership groups and was an absolute dump compared to some new state-of-the-art buildings that were going up in the 90’s, but it was our dump. Whether it was the inability to host prime time games for years because of the rowdiness, the “Tuna Bowls” following the run in 96, the fog game, the comeback against the Vikings in 94, the 1996 AFC title game itself or the magical ending that was the Snowbowl in 2001 against Oakland, there are memories that will last a lifetime for fans in that stadium.
When we think back to the 1996 AFC title run and what it meant in terms of bringing fans back, we should also remember the uniqueness and small role that Foxboro Stadium played in all of it.
Day 17 of our 25 days celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1996 AFC champions will be a look back at the thrilling regular season finale against the Giants that resulted in first-round bye for New England.