Who needs the talent of Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison when you have a guy like David Patten.
The Indianapolis' three-headed monster was no match for the three-pronged skill of the Patriots wide receiver, who contributed four touchdowns in New England's 38-17 win over the Colts, which completed a season sweep of the division power. Patten threw for as many touchdowns as Manning, ran for one more touchdown than James and caught one more score than Harrison.
By the time Patten was through, he put himself in the company of NFL legend Walter Payton. He is the first player since "Sweetness" to rush, receive and throw a touchdown in the same game. Payton achieved the hat trick on Oct. 21, 1979 against Minnesota. No other Patriot has achieved the feat, and only three have even done it in the same season.
"You can't begin to believe how excited I am," said Patten, who finished with four catches for 117 yards. "I'm just trying to stay calm right now. This is the result of a lifelong effort finally coming to pass. I waited a long time for this kind of opportunity, and I'm just glad I made the most of it."
It's no wonder he was excited. The first three times Patten touched the ball all resulted in touchdowns. When the team needed a response to Indy scoring 10 points in the third quarter, Patten got himself into the end zone for the third time.
The first time Patten got the ball, he ran a 29-yard reverse around the right end and didn't stop until he was in the end zone. His follow-up was the longest play from scrimmage in team history, a 91-yard bomb from Tom Brady.
"I was kind of licking my chops coming out of the huddle because I saw the corner pressing on David," Brady said. "I knew where I was going with that ball. I waited to make sure the safety wasn't coming over the top, and then I just laid it up there. David made a great play and just ran right by the guy. Once David gets by you, you are not going to catch him."
It might be hard to catch Patten, but Troy Brown had no problem catching from Patten. Following the bomb, New England limited the Colts to a three-and-out series. Using more razzle-dazzle, Brady threw a lateral to Patten, who lofted a bomb of his own to Brown for a 60-yard touchdown.
The play was one New England worked on during practice, but originally Brown was supposed to deliver the pass.
"I figured either way I couldn't lose," said Brown, who had eight catches for 120 yards. "He gave me a good ball, but he did kind of stretch me out a little bit. Seriously, David had a great game."
The one thing New England's offense didn't do was hold on to the ball very long. The three touchdown plays took a mere 30 seconds off the clock. Indianapolis had the ball for nearly 22 minutes in the first half, but having a big lead made being on the field so long bearable for the defense.
"We don't care, as long as they can put points on the board," said Bobby Hamilton, who finished with two sacks and a fumble recovery. "When you have an offense going like we did today, the defense has to go out there, make plays and get the ball back to them. Every time they got the ball they made something happen."
The New England Patriots take on the Indianapolis Colts at RCA Dome on Sunday, October 21, 2001.
The big three for Indianapolis, Manning (22-of-34, 335 yards), James (143 rushing yards) and Harrison (8 catches, 153 yards, TD) all put up big numbers. It didn't matter. Almost every time Indy started to make something happen, the drives stalled because of defensive stands. Indy drove inside the Patriots 20 five times, but they managed just one touchdown.
More importantly, the defense was able to respond after big plays. In the first quarter, the defense came up huge on the heels of a 68-yard pass from Manning to Harrison that set up a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line. On first down James was stopped after a 1-yard gain. On second down Roman Phifer knocked a pass away from tight end Ken Dilger in the end zone, and on third down Mike Vrabel sacked Manning for a 6-yard loss, forcing the Colts to settle for the field goal.
"We had to make that stand," Vrabel said. "We played like [crap] the whole way down the field. If you are going to give up that many yards, then you have to make them kick field goals."
Even the field goals were not easy for the Colts. Brandon Mitchell blocked a 46-yard attempt by Mike Vanderjagt to give the Patriots a 10-point swing when Patten ran his reverse one play later. Vanderjagt also saw his 25-yard try at the end of the first quarter blocked by Tebucky Jones. The blocks were part of a big performance by the special teams after a horrendous outing against San Diego.
"It started with special teams," Belichick said. "Those guys worked their butts off all week. Those two blocked field goals really set the tone for the game."
Looking to end on a strong note, the offense clinched the game with a drive that ate up more than 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. After Hamilton's fumble recovery gave New England the ball with 11:02 to go, the Patriots ran the clock down to less than a minute with an 18-play march.
"We wanted to take the ball and run time off the clock," Antowain Smith said. "We were up big, but Indianapolis has the firepower to put points on the board in a hurry. We needed to show we could close out a game. If we have leads in the future, it's important to know we can milk the clock and keep the ball away from the other team."
With all the attention on Patten, it was easy to overlook a second straight strong outing by Brady. In improving his record as a starter to 3-1, Brady completed 16-of-20 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. He has now started his career with 134 attempts without an interception.
The important thing to Brady was getting the team back to a .500 record for the first time since Bill Belichick took over. With confidence and momentum building, the Patriots can set goals a little higher.
"Now we are 3-3. I don't want to say it's a new season, but this is a breath of life for us," Brady said. "Week after week we have to play like this, and that will help us reach the ultimate goal, which is to win the AFC East and eventually moving on to bigger and better things."
2001: A Super Bowl Sound Odyssey
An aural history of the 2001 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The six-part podcast features interviews with over 20 players, coaches, media members and others who were there to witness this historic season, mixed with the iconic sounds that detailed every dramatic twist and turn of an unforgettable season. Every memorable moment from the 2001 Patriots season is revisited with new-found perspective 20 years later. It's a fresh and thorough look back at the team that started a football dynasty.
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