Dear State Farm Stadium,
Writing a letter like this might be considered strange to some. But after all that’s happened, why not?
It is issued on behalf of those who follow the New England Patriots because they have made a memorable connection with you.
They don’t see you often. Monday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) will be the fourth visit to State Farm Stadium (or University of Phoenix Stadium, as it was known until 2018) for either team. coach Bill Belichick’s Patriots.
But each of the previous three produced such unforgettable memories that just seeing your gleaming silver exterior and your cardinal red seats around the shimmering green grass rolled from the outside elicits genuine feelings for them.
Feelings of excruciating pain.
Feelings of euphoria.
These are the types of sensations that sport – perhaps more than anything else – provides.
You opened in 2006 in suburban Glendale, and your allure is that of a sparkling host to Super Bowls, concerts and NCAA basketball tournaments. This begins to explain how you first met the Patriots on February 3, 2007.
It was supposed to be a historic moment – the Patriots 18-0 against the badly underdog New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. It would be the NFL’s first undefeated campaign since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Many thought it was a done deal.
But behind the scenes, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was telling some of those close to him that he was worried about whether his team still had enough gas in the tank. They had taken the best shot of everyone so far and survived. Did they have one more?
Afterwards, Belichick stepped out for the game in a never-before-seen red hoodie. Superstitious people feared it was bad luck.
Of course you remember the game. At the critical moment, Giants quarterback Eli Manning escaped the pressure to fire a ball downfield, receiver David Tyree caught it between his hand and his helmet, and most of the nation gloated as New England’s hearts were broken in the 17-14 Super Bowl loss.
It took a long time for New England to start reading about the Patriots again after that. Some called it a self-imposed blackout period. Too much pain to see again.
They expected to see you again in 2012 for a Patriots-Cardinals regular season game – the team’s first in Arizona against the Cardinals since playing at Sun Devil Stadium in 2004. which moved that game to Foxborough , Massachusetts.
So the second visit, February 1, 2015, turned out to be another Super Bowl, XLIX, an epic game against the Seattle Seahawks. Remember, at that time, it had been 10 years since the Patriots had won a Super Bowl. And here they are, coming back under your roof for the first time since that devastating loss to the Giants in 2007.
It was the night Patriots quarterback Tom Brady engineered one of his fourth quarter comebacks against the Seahawks’ infamous Legion of Boom defense, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler showed up at the world with a game-saving interception, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was invited forever. guess by green-lighting the decision to run quarterback Russell Wilson over the goal line instead of handing over to powerful running back Marshawn Lynch.
We will never forget how your walls were shaking at that time. This game remains the most-watched Super Bowl of all time.
Talk about two extremes in New England.
The Patriots have no players on their roster since the loss to the Giants. Captains Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty are the only remaining captains since the win over the Seahawks. McCourty shared his appreciation this week, saying you’ll always be special to him because that’s where he won his first Super Bowl.
As for the Patriots’ third visit to your home, “intrigue” is the word that comes to mind. It was a Sunday night, in the national spotlight, and the Patriots were opening the 2016 season against the Cardinals without Brady, who was serving a four-game suspension imposed by the NFL for Deflategate. How would replacement Jimmy Garoppolo fare in his place?
In the hours leading up to kick-off, there was an iconic moment of Belichick entering the pitch with his sons, Steven and Brian, who are assistants in his squad. They looked around, admired you, smiled and allowed themselves to take a brief stroll down Memory Lane.
Bill Belichick speaks with his sons Brian (far right) and Steven, and his right-hand man Berj Najarian, on the pitch. pic.twitter.com/wmrB3rvTIE
—Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 11, 2016
Then, later in the evening, they were part of another indelible memory in a 23-21 win over the wire. Garoppolo played very well, with an accurate 37-yard touchdown pass to receiver Chris Hogan along the left sideline to open the scoring. This play served as an immediate statement that the moment wasn’t too big for the quarterback.
Now everyone is looking forward to that Monday night game at State Farm Stadium in Arizona with Mac Jones under center for the Patriots.
On the surface, it looks like a draw – the 4-8 Cardinals endure a surprisingly disappointing season; the 6-6 Patriots cling to slim playoff hopes.
But if history is any indication, you might have something special in store.
Win or lose, you know we’ll be watching.