Tom E. Curran's 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A trip and a catch


Tom E. Curran's 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A trip and a catch

We're into the Top 20 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!


THE YEAR: 2014 (actually February 2015)

THE GAME: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24

THE PLAY: Donta Hightower trips up Marshawn Lynch at the Patriots 1

WHY IT’S HERE: Donta Hightower’s 2014 season is a little underappreciated. He shredded his shoulder in Green Bay and missed just one game. He played in significant pain down the stretch and into the Super Bowl. And when the big linebacker was in a position to make a play that would keep the Patriots faint hopes for a fourth Super Bowl alive, he made it. After the circus catch by Jermaine Kearse put the Seahawks at the Patriots 5 with 1:06 left. The Seahawks ran left behind the ominous tackle Russell Okung. Hightower stacked Okung, discarded, dove at the feet of the powerful Marshawn Lynch and got enough of him to bring Lynch to a stumbling halt at the 1. On the next play, Malcolm Butler intervened.


THE YEAR: 2003

THE GAME: Patriots 32, Panthers 29 (actually February 2004)

THE PLAY: Tom Brady to Deion Branch for 17 yard to set up game- winner

WHY IT’S HERE: With the Super Bowl tied at 29-29, the Patriots needed about 35 yards to get in range for an Adam Vinatieri field goal and New England’s second Super Bowl win in three seasons. As it happened two years earlier, receiver Ricky Proehl had just scored a touchdown against a battered, tattered Patriots defense. The game was tied but New England would not have been the overtime favorite. Thanks to a kickoff out of bounds by Carolina kicker John Kasay and two completions to Troy Brown, the Patriots were nearing field goal range. But it was third-and-3 with 14 seconds left and Vinatieri – who was not kicking well that day with a long-snapper named Brian Kinchen suffering from the yips – needed to be close. Brady got them there with a 17-yard completion to Deion Branch out to the right sideline setting the stage for Vinatieri’s game-winner.


Pro day circuit shows Belichick in his element

Pro day circuit shows Belichick in his element

Bill Belichick is a teacher. His father was a teacher. His mother was a teacher. He is very much their son in that regard. 

The glimpses into Belichick's essence aren't as rare as you might think, but they still generate an inordinate amount of interest because he's arguably the best to ever execute the kind of teaching he's made his life's work.

Every time he takes several minutes to answer a conference call or press conference question thoughtfully, the hundreds of words found in the text of the transcribed answer typically create a stir on Twitter. NFL Films productions that show Belichick operating behind the scenes are devoured. Exclusive interviews, where he shares his insight on individual games and matchups, NFL Films productions that show Belichick operating behind the scenes are devoured. Exclusive interviews, where he shares his insight on individual games and matchups, make every installment of the β€˜Do Your Job’ series a must-watch.

Clips of Belichick on the practice field aren't necessarily hard to find, there just aren't many of them considering how many practices he's run over the course of his decades-long career. But thanks to more lax media policies at the college programs he visits for pro days, video of his on-the-field work pops up on a regular basis this time of year. They are mini-clinics dotting the internet. 

This is Belichick in his element. Even in the middle of a random university campus. Even with scouts, coaches and front-office people from around the league watching his every move. Whether he's coaching players one-on-one or three or four at a time, Belichick is imparting his wisdom on eager close-to-blank slates. All the while he's trying to evaluate how they're absorbing what he's giving them. Do they pay attention? How do they process information? Are they error-repeaters? 

It's a fascinating give-and-take between the 60-something coach trying to build a roster and the 20-something players trying to make one, some of whom hadn't yet hit kindergarten when Belichick won his first ring in New England. And he seems to enjoy it. 

Here's a quick look at some of what Belichick has been up to the last few days at Georgia, South Carolina and NC State.  



Patriots re-sign LB Marquis Flowers

Patriots re-sign LB Marquis Flowers

Linebacker Marquis Flowers is headed back to the Patriots on a one-year deal worth up to $2.55 million, according to his agent, Sean Stellato. 

Flowers, 26, a sixth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014, was acquired by the Patriots near the end of training camp last year for a seventh-round pick. 

More to come...