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!
PLAY NUMBER: 20
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.
PLAY NUMBER: 19
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.