The 2003 New England Patriots season was the 34th season for the team in the National Football League and 44th season overall. They finished with a league-best 14–2 record before advancing to and winning Super Bowl XXXVIII. Two seasons after winning Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots went into 2003 after missing the playoffs in 2002. In a salary cap-related move, captain and Pro Bowl safety Lawyer Milloy was released days before the start of the regular season, prompting second-guessing of head coach Bill Belichick among fans and a report by ESPN analyst Tom Jackson that Patriots players "hated their coach," an accusation later denied by players. Milloy signed with the Buffalo Bills, who defeated the Patriots, 31–0, in the season opener. The Patriots would rebound though, not losing another game after starting with a 2–2 record. Due to multiple injuries, the Patriots started 42 different players during the season, an NFL record for a division winner until the Patriots started 45 different players in 2005. Undefeated at home, nose tackle Ted Washington coined the phrase "Homeland Defense" for a Patriots' defense, boosted by the acquisitions of Washington and San Diego Chargers castoff safety Rodney Harrison in the offseason, that gave up a league-low 14.9 points per game en route to a 14–2 regular season record. The regular season was bookended with a 31–0 victory over the Bills at home in Week 17, a score reversed from the Patriots' shutout loss to the Bills in Week 1. The win gave the Patriots a perfect 8–0 record at home in the regular season and the 14–2 season was a club record and the first time the Patriots ever won more than 11 games in a season. After a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, the Patriots faced the Tennessee Titans at home in one of the coldest games in NFL history and won, setting up an AFC Championship Game matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. The top-seeded Patriots intercepted Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the league's co-MVP, four times, winning 24–14 and advancing to Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers. With a tied game late in the fourth quarter, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal with seconds remaining, giving the Patriots their second Super Bowl victory in three seasons.
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