The New England Patriots finished the National Football League's 1980 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 seemed poised for the playoffs. However, the Pats would win just two of their next seven, and would finish 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?"
The Patriots scored 441 points in 1980, a club record that stood until the 2007 squad shattered it. For the second straight season they missed the playoffs by one game.September 21 at Seattle Seahawks:
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.September 29 vs. Denver Broncos:
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.October 5 @ New York Jets:
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.October 12 vs. Miami Dolphins:
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.November 10 at Houston Oilers
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.November 30 at San Francisco 49ers:
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."December 8 at Miami Dolphins:
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.December 21 vs. New Orleans Saints:
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.
All of the following players appeared in at least one game for the 1980 New England Patriots.