Any surprise that Bill Belichick would have fond memories of Adam Vinatieri's 45-yard "Snow Bowl" kick to tie the Divisional Playoff between the Patriots and Raiders during the 2001 season? It only helped spark one of the most successful dynasties in the history of professional sports.
In a conference call with Colts reporters, Belichick was asked about Vinatieri -- who is 45 and now in his 13th year with the Colts -- and that kick in particular.
“I would say it was by far the greatest kick I have ever seen," Belichick said. "The conditions were very difficult. There were probably three to four inches of snow on the ground. It was a soft snow that kind of didn’t go away. I mean, there was no way to get around it. The magnitude of the kick was significant. It’s got to be the greatest kick of all time, certainly that I’ve seen."
Belichick has spent over four decades in the NFL. He's seen great kicks. He saw Vinatieri make a kick later that season to win a Super Bowl. Vinatieri made fourth-quarter kicks in all three Super Bowls he won with the Patriots in the early oughts.
Vinatieri passed Morten Anderson last weekend for most made field goals in NFL history, but still none have been more memorable than that one in the snow in the winter of 2002. And Belichick -- who was on the Patriots coaching staff in 1996, Vinatieri's rookie year, then named Patriots head coach after three years with the Jets -- has no problem singling it out.
"Adam is a great player," Belichick said. "He was a great player here and has been a great player for the Colts, great person. He works hard. He certainly doesn’t fit the classic profile for a kicker. He is more of a football player. He’s physically and mentally tough. When he was here, he trained and worked out with all the players. There was no special program for him as a kicker or anything like that. He embraced that. He had a great relationship with his teammates because of the way he worked, how competitive and mentally and physically tough he was and how he was willing to help out in other areas of the team – scout team and things like that. Whatever the team needed he was always great about that.
"He was a clutch, dependable player in his role. So, you can’t ask for much more than that. He has had a fabulous career. Certainly, in my opinion, the greatest kicker in the game. Not just for his longevity and production but again, the magnitude of some of the kicks that he made and the difficulty – particularly the one that you mentioned. But there were many besides that – the kick in the Super Bowl and the kick in the Carolina Super Bowl.
"So, I mean there were just big games after big games that we couldn’t – back in 2001, it seemed like every game came down to the last possession or the last kick. Every point was critical. Those games we won in 2001 and 2003 – especially in the early part of the year in 2003 – were all close games and tough ones. Adam came through for us with some enormous kicks.
"Congratulations to him and to the great career that he has and honestly it doesn’t seem like there is much sign of him slowing down. The ball continues to go right in the middle of the uprights. It never curves. It doesn’t hook. It just goes straight down the middle. So he just has an unbelievable level of consistency."
Vinatieri has made eight of nine field goals this year, with his only miss coming from beyond 50 yards, and he's hit all eight of his extra points.