The debut episode was sure to be ‘nostalgic heaven’ for Pats fans
As a Patriots fan I’ve been looking forward to this series for a while. They’ve certainly been promoting it a long time. If this were a Netflix show I’d have binged it all already but unfortunately it’s not. You can find it on ESPN+, new episodes air weekly on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET.
If you’re not familiar it’s a 10-part documentary series on Tom Brady with each episode covering one of his 10 super bowl runs. Episodes run to be around an hour long and feature interviews with Brady and others that were around him. Last night’s episode was about the 2001 team so the other interviewees were Drew Bledsoe and Willie McGinest.
As someone who was in first grade in 2001 it was nice to get another look last night at the team that really introduced me to professional football. Here are some of my thoughts from the episode.
The 2001 Patriots defense might’ve been the best Pats D of all time
You had Richard Seymour and Bobby Hamilton on the ends, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi in the back, and guys like Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy in the secondary. There were so many great players on that defense and at least half of them I’m pretty sure are already in the Patriots Hall of fame and on their way to Canton if not already.
This defense had significant expectations going into that season and they lived up to it. They ended up 6th in the league in team defense that year and of course won a super bowl against arguably the best offense in all of football.
Brady outscored Peyton Manning in his first NFL start. A sign of things to come
Now taking the reins for an injured Drew Bledsoe who had to leave the week 2 Jets game due to internal bleeding, Tom Brady started week 3 against a 2-0 Peyton Manning led Colts team. Brady may have had a quiet game statistically only going 13-23 with 168 yards but he still outshined Manning, already a big name at the time, who threw three interceptions with two of them being pick sixes. The Patriots went on to win 44-13 for their first win of the season and their sixth straight home win over the colts.
Motivation From 9/11
Hearing them describe what they were feeling post 9/11 and how that motivated them was very interesting. American pride was a big thing at the time, one of their starting O-lineman had brothers that survived their service as firefighters in the twin towers, and being that they were called the Patriots they felt like they were America’s team that year and showed it on the field.
What happens without the tuck rule?
We obviously know if that play is called a fumble then the game is over. The Patriots 2001 season is therefore over and the Raiders advance to face the Steelers in the AFC Championship instead of New England. But what would play out if that happened and I don’t mean the winner of that Super Bowl.
I mean the future of this Patriots team, primarily at the quarterback position. Would it have just been one less super bowl and the Patriots would only have 5 now or could it have changed a whole lot more? No one knows but we can always wonder.
Bills decision to start Brady for the Super Bowl changed the NFL forever
After Bledsoe filled in for a hurt Brady in the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh, ultimately leading them to a win in the last two and a half quarters that he played, that created a huge discussion across sports media and a ginormous decision for Bill Belichick going into that super bowl game in New Orleans. Everyone knows who he picked but the episode last night spoke on how comfortable the team felt sticking with him knowing that he had gotten them there that year. He had played in every game except week 1, started every other game except week 2, and finished every other game except the AFC Championship.
It did seem like the fairest choice at the time but you can understand it being hard for Bledsoe and given Brady’s mental stamina was still a question at the time you wouldn’t have sounded crazy to disagree with that decision. But that decision created a legend and one that I’m not so sure we would’ve seen if it went the other way. They also probably still win that game with Drew Bledsoe playing quarterback but the final result, and especially the final drive makes that easy to forget.
The first Patriots dynasty would’ve never started without Drew Bledsoe
Drew Bledsoe’s 10-year, $103 million contract extension before the start of the 2001 season was, at that time, the biggest contract in NFL history. This was clearly his team and would be for a long time, then one hit two weeks later changed everything. Imagine Aaron Rodgers losing his job at the peak of his career to a 2nd year backup because that’s essentially what happened with Bledsoe in 2001.
How things turned out throughout the season obviously bothered Drew Bledsoe but he did everything he could, and a good job of it, of hiding that and showing support. This was a huge factor in Brady’s comfort level and him being able to have the season he did in only his second year. Bledsoe could’ve ended up being such a huge distraction for Brady and this team that would’ve railroaded them at some point but because of how much of a standup guy Drew Bledsoe was, and I’m sure still is, this team found success.
Bledsoe mentioned in the episode that it wouldn’t have been as easy if Brady wasn’t such a good guy too. They both liked each other which helped their dynamic and the dynamic of the offense tremendously which made things easier on Brady. No distractions within the team benefitted this team greatly and while we know it hurt a lot for Bledsoe to lose his team, we need to acknowledge that without his support and help from the bench, as well as his performance in the Steelers AFC Championship game, then that super bowl championship wouldn’t have been possible.
ESPN+ | 11/23 | 9 P.M. ET | The 2003 season which concludes with the Patriots defeating the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl for their 2nd super bowl title in 3 years.