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Few people had football on their minds during week two of the 2001 NFL season. The league had cancelled all games the week before following the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon in our nation’s darkest hour. My family and I decided to go to Indy long before the horrific events took place on that terrible Tuesday, and traveled to the RCA Dome to watch a young Payton Manning carve up our defense and crush the Bills 42-26. That was September 23, 2001. It was very clear after that week that there was a changing of the guard in the AFC East, but it wasn’t the Colts. On that same day the Jets traveled to Foxboro to play Drew Bledsoe’s Patriots in an early AFC East showdown. The Pats had just lost a tough game in Cincinnati during week one and were looking to bounce back against the hated Jets. The Patriots second year coach Bill Belichick had much to prove after a 5-11 record the previous year. Fans in New England would NEVER admit it now, but many of them wanted him out after just one season. Belichick had little success in Cleveland and after the Boston faithful had run Pete Carroll out of town Belichick was basically on the clock. The Jets were coming into New England with one of the league’s top pass rushing defenses leaving Bledsoe with an enormous target on his chest.
The game was ugly and physical, but close throughout. Then one play changed the course of the AFC East and the NFL for that matter for a very long time. I can still see Bledsoe going to the sideline as big Mo Lewis laid him out. Bledsoe, who may be one of the most immobile QB’s in NFL history runs to the sideline to avoid the pressure and decides to take a few extra yards before going out of bounds. He was hit so hard he suffered internal bleeding and was out indefinitely. The Jets celebrated as he laid there on the sideline not knowing what they had actually done. Bledsoe’s split second decision changed the paths of so many people-especially the second year backup out of Michigan who was eagerly waiting for his shot to get on the field.
The Patriots went on to loss that game 10-3, but gained something that changed the path of the franchise forever. A franchise Quarterback and a winner. Brady went on to start the remaining 14 game that year leading the Pats to an 11-5 record, and a Super Bowl Championship. The following season the Patriots traded Bledsoe to the Bills and the rest as we all know was history. One hit. One play. One decision.
I love listening to all the hype about Belichick from the “loyal” Boston crowd. At that time New England really only cared about their baseball team who was finally putting together a squad that could compete with their division rivals. Nobody was expecting Brady to come in and do what he did following the Pats 5-11 season. Now, I don’t want to take anything away from the team that went on to win three Super Bowls, 6 AFC Championships, and almost every AFC title since he got there. What I am tired of is the constant high praise their coach gets for how it all went down. The Hoodie remains the most classless and arrogant coach in all of sports. He has road the coattails of one of the most dynamic and efficient quarterbacks of all time while continuing to act as though he did it all. Had Bledsoe stayed in there that day he was lined up to finish out the season while Brady watched from the sidelines. The Pats may have continued to do well, but without Brady it never happens. Period.
It’s clear the Pats are still a good team but no longer great. Brady may play three or four more years, but it doesn’t seem he can do what he always use to do. I could be wrong and they could go on and do well this year but it won’t be because of anything their coach has done. It will once again be the direct result of their quarterback doing something nobody expected him to do. So thank you Mo Lewis for changing everything. Well, not everything. At least the Jets still stink.
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