We're into the Top 10 now.
These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.
I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!
PLAY NUMBER: 6
THE YEAR: 2001
THE GAME: Patriots 44, Colts 13
WHY IT’S HERE: The most memorable play of the first game of the Brady Era. So noteworthy it appears on Cox’ Wikipedia page. This decleating delivered by one of the game’s most feared players became the rock on which the 2001 Patriots would build their style. It was a second-and-6 play for the Colts in the first quarter – Indy’s second play of the game. The Patriots were 0-2 and this was the first game after the attacks of 9/11 and the injury to Drew Bledsoe which landed Tom Brady in the starting lineup. Pathon pulled in a short dart from Peyton Manning and Cox crushed him. Car wreck type of hit. God bless Pathon, he went on to play the rest of the game and was targeted 10 more times. And he held onto the ball. But the spectacular nature of the hit was infectious. And the Patriots – many of whom were already talking that week about a bump in energy with Brady in the starting lineup – were ignited. Said Brady in the 2001 documentary America’s Game, “It was a different feeling that game. And we felt great about what we were capable of and we went out there for the first time in a year and a half and we’re like ‘Man, this is the kind of energy we have to bring every week.’ ”
PLAY NUMBER: 5
THE YEAR: 2011
THE GAME: Giants 21, Patriots 17
WHY IT’S HERE: Missed opportunities, self-inflicted wounds and just plain bad luck. The Patriots could lament all those things in the first 55 minutes of Super Bowl 46. But still, they led 17-15 with a little more than four minutes remaining and were driving. They needed to convert a first down. With a second-and-11 throw from Tom Brady to the great Wes Welker, it appeared they were about to. The Giants had miscommunicated their defense leaving a hole down the left seam that Welker sped into. Brady’s eyes lit up before the snap and his head went right to Welker who was looking back over his inside shoulder. Brady’s throw was to Welker’s outside shoulder. Welker jumped, spun and had the ball in his hands for an eye-blink. But it didn’t stick. NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth opined that Welker makes that play “100 times out of 100.” After the game, Welker said, “That’s a play I make a thousand times. It's a play I never drop. Most critical situation, and I let the team down.” A completion would have put the Patriots at the Giants 20 with the clock running and four minutes left. The Giants would have one timeout and the two-minute warning remaining. The Patriots almost certainly would have kicked a field goal to go ahead 20-15 and the Giants would have gotten the ball back with about 100 seconds remaining needing a touchdown. Analytics experts set the Patriots likelihood of winning at 95 percent had Welker made that catch. It wasn’t a Buckner-level drop and fortunately Welker doesn’t seem completely haunted by it (though he did tell me recently he still thinks about it). But it should have been a completion and the Patriots should have won their fourth Super Bowl that day.