Thursday, December 1, 2011

2001-2010 The Greatest Decade in New England Patriots History, Part 1 1996-2001

3 Super Bowl Victories, 4 Super Bowl Appearances, 137 Wins (Regular Season and Playoffs) , a 16-0 Regular Season, Closing Foxboro Stadium with the Greatest Playoff Game Ever, Opening up a gleaming palace that in 1994 most people thought was the untouchable dream.
To go forward, you must look at the past….
The Bill Parcells era ended after a trip to Super Bowl XXXI against the Green Bay Packers and a 35-21 loss in that game and the hiring of Pete Carroll, New England Patriots fans, knew that they had a team capable of returning to the NFL’s grandest Stage with a young core of QB Drew Bledsoe, RB Curtis Martin, WR Terry Glenn, TE Ben Coates, LB Tedy Bruschi, CB Ty Law, S Lawyer Milloy and K Adam Vinatieri.  A loss in the 1997 Playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 1998 Playoffs loss to Jacksonville and an 8-8 season in 1999, saw the Pete Carroll era in Foxborough end.
After the season Patriots Owner Bob Kraft, decided to reorganize and devote the team back to the winning football that he had hoped for all the years that he was a Patriots Season Ticket Holder and the dream he had when he first bought the team in 1994, toBRING A SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP TO THE FANS OF NEW ENGLAND.  On January 27, 2000, he began the building process towards that by hiring Bill Belichick, the one time Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns, and a fruit off of the Bill Parcells Coaching Tree.  After being on Bill Parcells’ Super Bowl Championship Coaching Staffs with the Giants and being a part of Parcells and the Patriots 1996 AFC Championship, this was an obvious choice for the Patriots and Mr. Kraft.  Belichick started his Patriots career with a step back in the 2000 season with a 5-11 record.  the 2001 season started the same way the 2000 Patriots campaign ended with hope and believe from the loyal members of Patriots Nation.
With a new mission statement the Patriots entered Free Agency near the Salary Cap and Belichick used the room that they had to sign veteran players at the league minimum to help the team grow and get better and used their 6th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft on University of Georgia Defensive Lineman Richard Seymour.   The 2001 Patriots started the season going 0-2, but in the 2nd game of the season the NFL’s 1st weekend back after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Patriots lost a game to the New York Jets, but in the loss the Jets, New England Patriots Franchise QB Drew Bledsoe was injured by Jets LB Mo Lewis near the sideline in the 4th Quarter of a 10-3 game.  This injury in which Patriots fans feared the worst and hoped for a little bit better, brought a blessing in disguise.
Into the game came 2000 NFL Draft 6th Round Compensatory Pick, Tom Brady of Michigan into the game.  even the most Die-hard of Patriots fans had no idea of what was to come not only from the team, but from this new QB who had seen limited action in the 2000 season.  In the 3rd game of the season the Patriots faced the Indianapolis Colts, and their Franchise QB Peyton Manning, what would follow would not be just the 1st Win of what would become the Belichick and Brady era but a sign of things to come.  After a 44-13 win in Foxoro over the Colts in which Tom Brady was effective but the Patriots would score on 2 Peyton Manning interceptions, Brady and the Patriots beat a Playoff team from the 2000 season and renewed some hope in Patriots fans, that the kid would be alright.  The following week in Miami, against the previous seasons AFC East Champions would prove to be worse.  Brady completed just 12 of 24 passes for under 100 yards, which would prompt Bill Belichick to bury the football from the game on the Patriots practice field.  The following week saw Tom Brady’s 1st career 4th Quarter Comeback, down 26-16 in a game in which Brady would have his first career 300+ yard passing  game (33-54 364 2 TD 0 Int), and Troy Brown and Terry Glenn would each have over 100 yard receiving games and Adam Vinatieri FG and a 3 yard Brady to Wiggins TD pass would tie the game at 26 and would bring the game into overtime, in which Vinatieri would kick the 1st of his game winning FG’s of the season.  Week 6 would bring Drew Bledsoe’s return to the sideline and a trip to Indianapolis and Brady’s 1st road win a 38-17 beating of the Colts would bring the Patriots back to .500.  At trip to Denver, a team in which the Patriots have had trouble with in past seasons came back to bite them.  After defeating Atlanta and Buffalo in back to back weeks, the Patriots would welcome “The Greatest Show on Turf” to the humble confines of Foxboro Stadium in what would become a Super Bowl preview.  A loss to the Rams on Sunday Night Football, put the Patriots at an impasse. At 5-5, where would the Patriots season go… Drew Bledsoe was cleared to play and Tom Brady was leading the Patriots to a 5-3 record, Bill Belichick had a decision to make and his decision was to stick with Tom Brady throughout the remainder of the season.  With that and the instilled confidence in Brady the 2001 Patriots would not lose another game until the 2002 season.  With 4 straight wins the Patriots hosted Miami in the last Regular Season game in Foxboro Stadium. On the line was the AFC East Crown, and these Patriots would not be denied in front of their home fans which at the time, could have been the last time they would have played in Foxboro Stadium.  Tom Brady threw for a little over 100 yards and had a 23 yd reception and the Patriots clinched the Division as well as sending their fans home with what they thought was the last home game, or would it be????  The 2001 regular season would end with a week 16 bye, caused by the September 11 attacks and a week 17 game against the Carolina Panthers in which the Patriots would secure their first 10 plus win season since 1997, and AFC East Division Crown and a 1st Round Playoff Bye and a home game against the Oakland Raiders, in what would become the greatest playoff game ever.
The 2001 Divisional Round Playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, would be played Saturday, January 19, a game played through a driving snow storm.  The 11-6 Raiders would get out to a 13-3 lead over the Pats, until another Tom Brady 4th Quarter comeback.

In the 4th Qtr, Brady led the Patriots down field and then scored on a 6 yard run up the middle of the Raiders defense and the spiked the ball in the end zone and tumbled in the snow, like every kid does who gets to play tackle football in the snow on a snow day from school.  The Touchdown would not be Brady’s best escape of the game, that would come on the Patriots final drive of regulation, in what would make the game most famously known as “The Tuck Rule Game”. With the Patriots trailing 13-10, Raiders CB Charles Woodson came in untouched on Tom Brady and Brady lost control of the football.  What would follow would become one of the most controversial plays in NFL History, Referee Walt Coleman had to make the biggest call of his career.

After Coleman ruled that Brady’s arm was going forward, thus making the result of the play an incomplete pass the Patriots drove down and set up Adam Vinatieri for his first of 2 FG’s in the snow to seal the victory for the Patriots.
Snow Bowl 2002 (Vinatieris Kick) - Photofile Inc.

In the AFC Championship game the Patriots traveled to Pittsburgh to take on a Steelers 

team, that was heavily favored and packed and ready to travel to New Orleans to play the 

Super Bowl.  Patriots receiver Troy Brown opened up the scoring with a 55-yard punt return touchdown with 3:42 left in the first quarter. Pittsburgh responded by driving 65 yards in 10 plays and scoring with a 30-yard field goal from Kris Brown. Later in the quarter, Brady completed a 28-yard pass to Brown at the Steelers 40-yard line, but was knocked out of the game on the play.  As Brady was being walked of the field, Bledsoe took over without missing a beat, rushing for four yards and completing three passes to David Patten for 37 yards, the last one an 11-yard touchdown to give the Patriots a 14-3 lead.  With a 24-17 win Drew Bledsoe had helped the Patriots get back to the Super Bowl, the 1st Super Bowl in New Orleans, since the 1996 season, a game in which the Patriots lost, full circle huh?

Belichick was once again faced with a QB decision. With Brady having a sprained ankle and Bledsoe helping the Patriots move onto the Super Bowl, Patriots fans screamed loudly for Bledsoe, since he had the experience playing in the game in 1996, but Belichick stuck to his guns once again and said as long as Brady was healthy he would play, and would he play.  

The Patriots arrived in New Orleans, LA for Super Bowl XXXVI, they arrrived 17 1/2 point under dogs to the NFC Champion St. Louis Rams, a Rams team that led the NFL in scoring during the regular season and a team 2 season removed from winning Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta.  

Belichick, who authored one of the greatest defensive game plans 11 years earlier as New York Giants Devensive Coordinator against the Buffalo Bills, once again showed why he was the boy genius on defense.  

With the Patriots down 3-0 Ty Law intercepted a Kurt Warner pass and returned it 47 yards to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead.  With less than 2:00 remaining in the 1st Half, the Patriots defense forced another turnover and Brady would lead another Patriots scoring drive that would culminate with an 8 yard touchdown pass in the back right corner of the end zone to David Patten, his 2nd straight game with a touch down in the back of the end zone.  The Patriots would take an 11 point lead into the locker room, which was the 1st time in the 2001 season the Rams would be trailing in a game by more than 8 points.  

After halftime, the Patriots widened their lead to 17-3, and looked after a 97-yard fumble return by Tebucky Jones to give the Patriots a 23-3 lead, but the touchdown would come off the board on a holding penalty against Patriots LB Willie McGinest.  2 plays later Kurt Warner would rush for a touchdown cutting the Patriots lead in half to 17-10.

After the Rams defense, forced a 3 and out, the Rams offense drove the ball to the Patriots 36 yard line and a sack of Kurt Warner which cost him a loss of 16 yards the Patriots defense held the Rams, and forced a punt.  Another 3 and out by the Patriots offense would lead to St. Louis’ game tying touchdown a 55 yard :21 drive in which Warner and Ricky Proehl hooked up on a 26 yard pass play.

The Patriots offense regained control of the football and Tom Brady drove the Patriots down the field using short passes Brady drove the Patriots down to the Rams 30 yard line.  With 7 seconds left on the clock Adam Vinatieri would line up to kick the biggest Field Goal of his career.

In what would be the final game of John Madden and Pat Summerall’s illustrious partnership in the broadcast booth, the greatest Super Bowl ever played would be their greatest call of a game ever.  While all the Confetti fell, Tom Brady would be named Super Bowl MVP.  When handed the Lombardi Trophy, Patriots Owner Bob Kraft gave the Patriots fans “Gettysburg Address” 

Coming soon 2002

Extra Points:  What’s Brewin in Sports airs Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 P.M. Eastern on….Follow us on twitter @whatsbrewinshow….Beginning January 3rd What’s Brewin take the show on the road to Foley’s NY  located at 18W 33rd St (between 5th & 6th Ave), in New York City, just across the street from the Empire State Building….We hope

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