(Check out our other football card posts here.)

These days, it takes a football anomaly of Biblical proportions to keep the New England Patriots out of the Super Bowl.

As of February 2018, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and various moving parts have landed in the Big Game eight times in the span of 16 years (17 seasons), and New England has made a whopping 10 Super Bowl appearances overall.

Whether you love or hate the current regime, it’s hard to deny they’ve had an absolutely amazing run.

But it hasn’t always been this way.

For most of the 1970s and the early 1980s, the Pats were patsies fighting hard just to get out of the cellar of the old AFC East.  But after posting a winning record in 1984, New England rolled to an 11-5 mark in 1985.

That was only good enough for third place in their division, but it snagged them a Wild Card berth, and they made most of their slim chances.

Super Bowl XX Program

In fact, New England became the first team ever to reach the Super Bowl by winning three straight road playoff games …

First, they downed the New York Jets, 26-14, in the Wild Card Round.

In the Divisional round, they traveled all the way to Los Angeles and made it past the Raiders, 27-20.

Then most shockingly, they whooped up on the Miami Dolphins, 31-14, in South Florida to take the AFC title and set up a Super Bowl meeting with the mighty Chicago Bears.

The Pats were heavy underdogs heading into Super Bowl XX, but there were some who thought their streak might hold out.

In the end, the prognosticators were correct, and the Bears did their Super Bowl Shuffle all over the carcasses of the Patriots, recording the most lopsided SB victory (46-10) up to that point in history.

Today, the 1985 Patriots are still strong contenders for the title of Worst Super Bowl Team ever, but it’s pretty amazing that they made it there in the first place.

And they also left some pretty awesome cardboard behind.

As fans settled down to watch that Big Game on January 26, 1986, many of us had handsful of the 1985 Topps black beauties by our sides.

Here’s what those dandies looked like for each Patriots player who dared to challenge Da Bears.

 

1985 Topps Patriots Team Leaders

New England Patriots Team Leaders (#320)

The 1984 Patriots finished 9-7, but running back Tony Collins looked pretty powerful coming out of the backfield against the Miami Dolphins. Was he just giving fans a preview of things to come?

 

1985 Topps Raymond Clayborn

Raymond Clayborn (#321)

Raymond Clayborn recorded three interceptions as the starting right cornerback in 1984, then upped that number to six as New England rumbled toward the playoffs in 1985.

 

1985 Topps Tony Collins

Tony Collins (#322)

Not only did Tony Collins look good on the Patriots team leaders card (above), but he also ran for 550 yards and five touchdowns in 1984, while snagging 100 receiving yards. Maybe more significantly, he racked up more than 500 yards in kick return yards.

Then, in 1985, the Pats dropped him from the return game but upped his touches on offense. The result? More than 1200 all-purpose yards, with another five touchdowns.

 

1985 Topps Tony Eason

Tony Eason (#323)

By 1985, Tony Eason was in his third season with the Patriots after they selected him with their first pick in the 1983 draft out of Illinois. He took the reins of the team from veteran Steve Grogan in 1984 and finished that season with 23 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and more than 3200 yards rushing.

The next year, though, Eason and Grogan battled for playing time, with Eason’s starts dropping from 13 to 10. And, even after taking all the snaps in that big upset of the Dolphins in the AFC Championship game, Eason’s place was not secure.

After an 0-for-6 start in the Super Bowl, Patriots coach Raymond Berry pulled Eason in favor of the veteran Grogan.

But by then, the cardboard damage had been done. Topps bought New England’s commitment to Eason and left Grogan out of their 1985 lineup.

So collectors ended up in the unusual position of not having any current football cards of a Super Bowl quarterback — Grogan — as the ugly game unfolded.

 

1985 Topps Tony Franklin

Tony Franklin (#324)

Tony Franklin was the starting kicker for the Patriots in both 1984 and 1985, connecting on 24 of 30 field goals in that (AFC) championship season. He also made 40 of 41 extra points.

 

1985 Topps Irving Fryar

Irving Fryar (#325)

Irving Fryar was a rookie in 1984 and recorded only 11 catches for 164 yards.

It was a different story as the Pats made their run in 1985, though, as Fryar became a featured wideout and snagged 39 balls for 670 yards and a team-high seven receiving touchdowns.

 

1985 Topps John Hannah

John Hannah (#326)

By 1984, guard John Hannah was in his 12th year with the Patriots and likely had already cemented his Hall of Fame credentials. Another two years on the New England line, eventually helping clear a path all the way to the Super Bowl, cemented his status as a gridiron immortal.

 

1985 topps brian holloway

Brian Holloway (#327)

Every quarterback needs to find comfort in the pocket, confident that his blindside is protected. For these Pats teams, that job fell to Brian Holloway.

The results?

Eason was sacked an NFL-high 59 times in 1984 and another 28 in 1985.

Grogan landed on his back seven and 11 times, respectively.

That drop from 66 to 39 total sacks undoubtedly helped New England’s cause in their 1985 push.

Apparently, Holloway responded well to the teachings of new offensive line coach Rod Humenuik.

 

1985 topps craig james

Craig James (#328)

Craig James was a seventh-round pick out of SMU in 1984, but he made an immediate impact, racking up 790 yards on 160 carries as a rookie.

He stepped that up to another level in 1985 when he rushed 263 times for 1227 yards and caught 27 passes for another 360 yards.

James never came close to those levels again but was a key to the Pats’ 1985 success.

 

1985 topps Stanley Morgan

Stanley Morgan (#329)

Stanley Morgan caught 38 passes for 709 yards in 1984, then followed that up with an almost identical 39 catches for 760 yards in 1985. Though Fryar stole some of his thunder, Morgan played through 1990 and finished with nearly 11,000 yards receiving.

His financial planning company is pretty solid, too. Or something.

 

1985 topps Steve Nelson

Steve Nelson (#330)

Steve Nelson spent his entire 14-year career with the Patriots, suiting up in crouching minuteman gear from 1974-87. He started at left inside linebacker in both 1984 and 1985, and he looked every bit worse for all the wear on that 1985 Topps card of his.

 

1985 topps Derrick Ramsey

Derrick Ramsey (#331)

Derrick Ramsey caught 66 passes for 792 yards out of the tight end slot in 1984 but saw those numbers drop to 28 for 285 when he lost his starting gig in 1985.

 

1985 Topps Stephen Starring

Stephen Starring (#332)

Wide receiver Stephen Starring caught 46 passes for 657 yards as a rookie in 1984. The next year, with Fryar ramping up, Starring lost his starting gig and saw his numbers fall to 16 catches for 235 yards.

He played in the NFL through 1988 but was forced to change his last name to “Backingup” after the 1985 season.

 

1985 Topps Mosi Tatupu

Mosi Tatupu (#333)

Veteran backup running back Mosi Tatupu picked up 553 yards on 133 carries in 1984, then followed up with 152 yards on just 47 carries during the Pats’ championship season.

His spectacular hair and mustache provided welcome solace for that slide in playing time, though.

 

1985 Topps Andre Tippett

Andre Tippett (#334)

Linebacker Andre Tippett was a monster in the Patriots’ defensive backfield in the mid-1980s, picking up a gaudy and vicious 18.5 sacks in 1984. That dropped to just 16.5 in 1985, but Tippett made up for that backslide with four fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown.

Although the Patriots stunk up the Superdome on that long-ago January Sunday, there was some consolation … at least for some.

Realizing that Steve Grogan would play an important role in any future Patriots success, the team brought him back again and again, through the 1990 season.

Significantly, Topps brought him back, too.

Grogan was back in the cardboard fold in the 1986 Topps set and then made a landmark appearance in the 1989 Topps Traded set.

There, on card #126T, Grogan debuted a pose, a look, that would be emulated by young QBs across the land.

1989 Topps Traded Steve Grogan

One of those youngsters, a 13-year-old named Peyton Manning, would eventually perfect “The Steve Grogan.”

Though even Manning never nailed the Grog-stache.

(Check out our other football card posts here.)

 

 

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