This is the game that everyone's been waiting for; Brady vs. Bledsoe before a sold out crowd. With emotions riding high at Foxboro Stadium special security measures are taken. All the Brady fans are directed to sit on one side of the stadium, designated the Bryan Morry section, while all the Bledsoe fans are ushered onto the other side of the field in the Paul Perillo section.The champs show little sign of rust after their bye week, as Ty Law starts the game by jarring the ball loose from Shawn Jefferson with Lawyer Milloy making the recovery. It takes one play for them to cash in the huge break, as Tom Brady hits Troy Brown on a quick throw over Ty Law for an even quicker 7-0 lead. Incidentally, both players played on both teams.
"Ty had a streak of a couple of years without a touchdown scored on him," Brown said. "It's pretty good to score on Ty. He's a teammate and one of the best corners in the league."The champs are not quite done with their thieving ways, as moments later Otis Smith picks off a pass intended for Terry Glenn. Rather than making the tackle Glenn allows Smith to steam upfield and pick up some blockers and 78 yards later the 36-year old-veteran is in the end zone to put his team in front 14-0.
With a double-digit lead Bill Belichick opts to go with a nickel package and use a maddening array of blitzes to harass Bledsoe. The Bledsoe Bashers are beside themselves when their favorite target is sacked by Richard Seymour and later by Mike Vrabel.
But with a chance to put the game away the 2001 Patriots get sloppy and start committing a slew of costly penalties. After a Marc Edwards fumble squanders a potential scoring drive, Bledsoe connects on six straight throws. Twice on the drive he finds his favorite target, tight end Ben Coates, the second time for a 4-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 14-7 at halftime.After a spirited first half the second half turns into a hard-hitting affair with tempers short on both sides. Twice in the third quarter the referees have to separate players, as old friends Bledsoe and Willie McGinest exchange words after a hard hit.
The champs hold the ball for an amazing 19 plays to drain nearly nine minutes off the clock. Brady's apparent touchdown pass to David Patten is wiped out by a holding penalty on Greg Robinson-Randall, but Adam Vinatieri salvages the drive with a 29-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead.
Trailing by 10 points Bledsoe shows he is one up on St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz by electing not to throw against Belichick's seven-defensive back scheme. Instead he uses Curtis Martin on six straight plays and the result is the touchdown that slices the lead back to three points. That's as close as Carroll's Crew gets, as Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk successfully run out the clock. Brady and Bledsoe meet at midfield to shake hands while Morry and Perillo stomp off in opposite directions. At the postgame press conference Belichick delivers a sterling lecture on the intricacies of the two-deep zone while Pete Carroll explains why he didn't call the plays. Would we expect any less as New England football fans?
Foxboro Stadium, Foxboro MA
|1997 New England Patriots||0||7||0||7||-||14|
|2001 New England Patriots||14||0||0||3||-||17|
NE '01-T.Brown 15 pass from Brady (Vinatieri kick) 6:
NE '01-O.Smith 78 interception return (Vinatieri kick)
NE '97-Coates 4 pass from Bledsoe (Vinatieri kick) 1:
NE '01-FG Vinatieri 29 12:15
NE '97-C.Martin 5 pass from Bledsoe (Vinatieri kick)
|**NE '97**||**NE '01**|
NE '97-C.Martin 15-111, Bledsoe 2-6, Meggett 4-6
NE '01-Faulk 8-64, A.Smith 20-58, T.Brown 1-12, Edwards 2-5, Brady 3-0
NE '97-Coates 5-35, Jefferson 4-60, C.Martin 3-17, Glenn 3-49,
NE '01-T.Brown 6-93, Patten 6-37, A.Smith 4-21, Rutledge 2-29, Faulk 2-3,
Edwards 1-4, Wiggins 1-10
NE '97-Bledsoe 17-29-1-180, 2 TD
NE '01-Brady 22-27-0-191, 1 TD
NE '97-Jefferson 2
NE '01-Edwards 1, Patten 1
NE '97-T.Collins 1
NE '01-Milloy 2, Patten 1
NE '01-O.Smith 1-78
NE '97-McGinest 1
NE '01-Hamilton 1, Seymour 1, Vrabel 1
MVP: Troy Brown NE 2001