FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Before the New England Patriots could show off their latest Super Bowl banner, they needed to do some minor renovations to their home stadium.
The team had run out of room on the facade where their first four banners were displayed. So signs were raised. Lights were moved. And the banners recognizing the 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2014 titles were shrunk a bit to make room for a fifth that owner Robert Kraft declared “unequivocally the sweetest.”
Everything was back in position Thursday night at the NFL’s festive season opener, when the Patriots celebrated their fifth Super Bowl championship in a ceremony before their 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Flo Rida performed on an end zone stage, and Boston-grown actor Mark Wahlberg served as master of ceremonies for the banner ceremony. Five half-ton replicas of the Vince Lombardi Trophy were stationed on the field, and players from the first four championships ducked out from behind them with the real thing.
Receiver Julian Edelman — who was injured and lost for the year during the exhibition season — got one of the biggest cheers of the night when he came out with the trophy from 2014.
A lot has happened since then.
On their way to the Super Bowl that year, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was accused of orchestrating a scheme to illegally deflate footballs used in the AFC championship game. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Brady four games; the punishment remained in limbo as the scandal that came to be known as “Deflategate” stretched into a third season before it was ultimately upheld in the federal courts.
Despite losing Brady for a quarter of the regular season — or perhaps inspired by it — the Patriots returned to the Super Bowl. Then, after falling behind 25 points in the third quarter, Brady rallied them to the first overtime victory in Super Bowl history.
Fans held up signs featuring the 28-3 score, and while testing their scoreboard on Thursday afternoon, the Patriots posted the score and time of the most ominous deficit from that game .
The crowd reveled in the highlights from the Super Bowl, and they booed lustily when Goodell was briefly shown yucking it up with Chiefs owner Clark Hunt on the sideline during warmups. A website distributed thousands of towels featuring Goodell’s face adorned with a clown nose, and many fans also had T-shirts with the caricature.
The commissioner watched the game not from Kraft’s suite, as he did in a preseason game that was his first Patriots game since “Deflategate,” but from another luxury box, the NFL said. Asked about reports that Goodell would not be pictured on the scoreboard during the game , so as not to rile up the fans, a Patriots spokesman said the team did not typically show people in suites on the scoreboard.
The fans chanted the commissioner’s name derisively as the teams prepared for kickoff.