Patriots draw big TV numbers in finishing perfect regular season

NEW YORK: Football fans around the country flocked to their TV sets last weekend, taking advantage of an expanded opportunity to see the Patriots become the first team in NFL history to go 16-0 in the regular season.

An average of 34.5 million viewers watched New England rally to beat the New York Giants 38-35 last Saturday night, the most-watched regular-season game since the Kansas City Chiefs played the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day in 1995.

In most of the country, the Patriots' finale against the Giants was originally scheduled to be shown only on the NFL Network, which is available in fewer than 40 percent of the nation's homes with TVs. But the NFL decided it would simulcast the game on CBS and NBC, the first three-network simulcast in league history.

CBS drew 15.7 million viewers, while NBC drew 13.2 million and the NFL Network 4.5 million. Local stations in New York and New England combined for an additional 1.2 million viewers.

The Patriots' march to an undefeated regular season, the first since the '72 Dolphins went 14-0, has captured the nation's attention for months. The four most-viewed NFL games this season each involved the Patriots: Oct. 14 against the Cowboys (29.1 million), Dec. 9 against the Steelers (30.3 million), Nov. 4 against the Colts (33.8 million), and last weekend against the Giants.

The Patriots-Giants game was the most-viewed TV program since the Academy Awards on Feb. 25.

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