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: 10
THE YEAR: 2007
THE GAME: Patriots 38, Giants 35
THE PLAY: Tom Brady to Randy Moss for 65-yard TD, sealing three records
WHY IT’S HERE: The play itself? A perfect capstone to regular-season perfection.
From the first game of the 2007 season, it was apparent Tom Brady and the Patriots were offensively transformed by Randy Moss. That first game against the Jets and the touchdown pass to Moss where he sprinted past three defenders (Play 15) was bookended by this 65-yard touchdown in the final regular-season game in the same stadium. The catch gave Moss the single-season touchdown reception record (23) and Tom Brady the single-season touchdown pass record (50) while also putting the Patriots ahead for good in the final game of the first 16-0 season in NFL history.
Beyond this play and those accomplishments, what made the night so memorable was how the two teams competed. The Giants had little to play for. They were locked into a postseason spot and, win or lose on this night, were facing a Wild Card Round game the following weekend in Tampa. Many people were urging them to look past this game, rest their regulars and get ready for the playoffs. But with history on the line, Tom Coughlin did his old colleague and friend Bill Belichick the service of making the Patriots earn it.
And the Pats had to. Trailing 28-16 late in the third, they needed a flurry on both sides of the ball to get past the Giants. The price the Patriots would pay later? The Giants got needed confidence from playing New England so competitively. Soon, they’d put that confidence and the intel gathered to good use in a monumental upset in SB42. One other interesting parallel -- the 2001 Patriots used their regular-season matchup with the Rams as fodder for their Super Bowl win in SB36.
PLAY NUMBER: 9
THE YEAR: 2001 (actually January 2002)
THE GAME: Patriots 16, Raiders 13, o.t.
THE PLAY: Tuck Rule
WHY IT’S HERE: The notion that the Tuck Rule "gave" the Patriots that AFC Divisional Playoff win over the Raiders is absurd. But it did give them a chance.
It was the right call by the rule and the evidence Walt Coleman was provided. Tom Brady’s arm was coming forward when Charles Woodson smoked him on a first-and-10 play from the Raiders 42 with 1:50 left. There was no replay angle that showed Brady’s off-hand ever touched the ball, so this was no bag-job call as so many have alleged.
Before the Tuck Rule play, the Raiders had their chance to salt it away and couldn’t get a third-and-1 with Zach Crockett. After the Tuck Rule play, they allowed a 13-yard Brady completion right. And the Patriots picked up two third downs and a fourth-down conversion on the overtime drive. They earned that win.
Adding to the drama of the game was the scene (snow falling throughout the night) and the setting (the final game in the history of star-crossed Foxboro Stadium). Not to mention the opponent: The Raiders, who were on the other end of a beneficial call in the most heartbreaking loss in Patriots history back in 1976.