1980 New England Patriots season

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1980 New England Patriots season
Head coachRon Erhardt
General managerBucko Kilroy
OwnerBilly Sullivan
Home fieldSchaefer Stadium
Division place2nd AFC East
Playoff finishdid not qualify
Pro BowlersDE Julius Adams
FS Tim Fox
G John Hannah
CB Mike Haynes
WR Stanley Morgan
LB Steve Nelson
K John Smith
AP All-ProsG John Hannah (1st team)
CB Mike Haynes (2nd team)
WR Stanley Morgan (2nd team)

The 1980 New England Patriots season was the franchise's 11th season in the National Football League and 21st overall. They completed the season with a record of ten wins and six losses and finished second in the AFC East Division. Running Back Sam Cunningham held out all season, so the Patriots turned to rookie Vagas Ferguson to carry the bulk of the rushing game. Ferguson responded by breaking the team's rookie rushing record. The Patriots would sit at 6-1 near the midway point and were about to make the playoffs. However, the Pats collapsed and won just two of their next seven and finished with a 10–6 record that saw them fall just short of a wild-card berth.

Bill Parcells, then the linebackers coach with the team, has stated that the players on this Patriots team gave him his famous "Tuna" nickname when he asked, "What do you think I am, Charlie the Tuna?"


NFL Draft[edit]

1980 New England Patriots draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 14 Roland James  Cornerback Tennessee
1 25 Vagas Ferguson  Running back Notre Dame
2 45 Larry McGrew  Linebacker USC
3 73 Steve McMichael *  Defensive Tackle Texas
5 124 Doug McDougald  Defensive End Virginia Tech
      Made roster    †   Pro Football Hall of Fame    *   Made at least one Pro Bowl during career


New England Patriots 1980 staff
Front office

Head coaches

Offensive coaches


Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches


1980 New England Patriots roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

Rookies in italics

Regular season[edit]

Season summary[edit]

The Patriots scored 441 points in 1980, a team record that stood until the 2007 team surpassed it. For the second straight season, they missed the playoffs by one game.


Week Opponent Result Stadium Record Attendance
1 Cleveland Browns W 34–17 Schaefer Stadium 1–0
2 Atlanta Falcons L 21–37 Schaefer Stadium 1–1
3 at Seattle Seahawks W 37–31 Kingdome 2–1
4 Denver Broncos W 23–14 Schaefer Stadium 3–1
5 at New York Jets W 21–11 Shea Stadium 4–1
6 Miami Dolphins W 34–0 Schaefer Stadium 5–1
7 at Baltimore Colts W 37–21 Memorial Stadium 6–1
8 at Buffalo Bills L 13–31 Rich Stadium 6–2
9 New York Jets W 34–21 Schaefer Stadium 7–2
10 at Houston Oilers L 34–38 Astrodome 7–3
11 Los Angeles Rams L 14–17 Schaefer Stadium 7–4
12 Baltimore Colts W 47–21 Schaefer Stadium 8–4
13 at San Francisco 49ers L 17–21 Candlestick Park 8–5
14 at Miami Dolphins* L 13–16 (OT) Miami Orange Bowl 8–6
15 Buffalo Bills W 24–2 Schaefer Stadium 9–6
16 at New Orleans Saints W 38–27 Superdome 10–6


AFC East
Buffalo Bills(3) 11 5 0 .688 4–4 8–4 320 260 W1
New England Patriots 10 6 0 .625 6–2 9–3 441 325 W2
Miami Dolphins 8 8 0 .500 3–5 4–8 266 305 L1
Baltimore Colts 7 9 0 .438 5–3 6–8 355 387 L3
New York Jets 4 12 0 .250 2–6 3–9 302 395 W1

Notable games[edit]

The game lead tied or changed eight times as Jim Zorn and Steve Grogan combined for 583 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and two picks. Trailing 27–14 after three quarters the Seahawks behind Zorn touchdowns to Steve Largent and Sam McCullum took a 31–30 lead before Grogan found tight end Don Hasselbeck (whose son Matt would quarterback the Seahawks over two decades later) for the game-winning touchdown of a 37–31 final.

The Patriots opened the first of three Monday Night Football appearances on their schedule hosting the Broncos for the fourth time since the AFL-NFL merger. A Matt Robinson touchdown in the first quarter put the Broncos up 7–0, then the game lead changed three times in the next two quarters behind Patriot scores by Vagas Ferguson, Stanley Morgan, and kicker John Smith and an Otis Armstrong touchdown for the Broncos, before the Patriots inched away in the fourth to a 23–14 win. It was the fourth straight win for the home team in the rivalry and would be the Patriots' last win over the Broncos until 1999.

The Patriots edged the Jets 21–11, sacking Richard Todd five times. It had been a rough week leading up to the game for Todd, as he broke the little toe on his left foot after accidentally kicking a table at home, then broke the right little toe after his foot was stepped on by Stan Waldemore on a play-action drill during practice – Waldemore was subbing for Randy Rasmussen after Rasmussen was injured earlier in practice.

The Patriots and Dolphins had split their season series the previous four seasons, and 1980 proved no different. The Patriots hammered the Dolphins at Schaefer Stadium 34–0 as Don Calhoun and Allan Clark had rushing touchdowns, Steve Grogan and Matt Cavanaugh each had a touchdown throw, and kicker John Smith kicked two field goals. The Dolphins had four fumbles and recovered all four, but also threw four picks.

In their second Monday Night Football game the Patriots fell behind 24–6 at halftime as they faced an Oilers squad that included two players who'd haunted the Pats during their Oakland Raiders days – Ken Stabler and Dave Casper. The Patriots managed four touchdowns in the second half and recovered an onside kick late in the fourth quarter, but Grogan was intercepted in the endzone and thus the Oilers had the game 38–34.

Steve Grogan started despite injuries to both knees because backup Matt Cavanaugh (a future Niners backup for Joe Montana) was coming off knee surgery. Grogan was picked off six times in a 21–17 loss and "I got crucified in the newspapers, but no one knew I was playing on two bad knees."[1]

The Dolphins got revenge in a 16–13 overtime win at the Miami Orange Bowl. The Patriots clawed to a 13–6 lead in the fourth quarter, then the Dolphins forced overtime with a David Woodley throw to Nat Moore in the fourth. John Smith attempted to kick the game-winning field goal, but had the kick blocked, then Uwe von Schamann of the Dolphins won it with a 23-yard field goal in the extra quarter. The game, though, wound up taking a back seat to the announcement by Howard Cosell that John Lennon had been shot and killed.[2]

With a playoff berth out of reach the Patriots outdueled the Saints 38–27 behind three Matt Cavanaugh touchdown throws and rushing scores by Don Calhoun and Mosi Tatupu. Running back Jack Holmes threw a touchdown to fellow RB Jimmy Rogers as the Saints clawed to a 10–0 first quarter lead, but the lead was gone before halftime. Archie Manning threw for 301 yards and a score to Wes Chandler against a Patriots organization his sons Peyton and Eli would battle in another time.


  1. ^ Felger, Michael (2004) TALES FROM THE PATRIOTS SIDELINES (IL: Sports Publishing LLC), from Forward ISBN 1-59670-154-4
  2. ^ Ausiello, Jeff (December 5, 2010). "Ex-Pats kicker forever linked to Lennon". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 6, 2010.

See also[edit]