Patriots

Today is 20th anniversary of Lewis' hit on Bledsoe, start of Brady's legend

Patriots

The most successful era in NFL history began 20 years ago today on a huge hit that rattled New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe and ushered in Tom Brady's legendary career.

It was Sept. 23, 2001 -- a Week 2 game between the Patriots and New York Jets on Sunday night at the old Foxboro Stadium.

The Jets were winning 10-3 with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter. Bledsoe took the snap on a third-and-10 and scrambled up the right sideline trying to get the first down. Before reaching the first-down marker, Jets linebacker Mo Lewis leveled Bledsoe with a massive hit. 

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The Patriots punted, and on the next possession a backup quarterback named Tom Brady took over. The rest, as they say, is history.

It didn't take long for Brady to make an impact as the starter. He won his first game the following week in a 44-13 victory over Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts. A couple months later, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl XXXVI upset over the St. Louis Rams for New England's first Lombardi Trophy.

Brady ultimately played 20 seasons in New England and won three NFL MVP awards, six Super Bowl titles and four Super Bowl MVPs. 

All of that success -- the championships, records, etc. -- probably don't happen if this Lewis/Bledsoe play doesn't occur. It's crazy how one single play can impact so much of the future.

What's crazier is Brady getting ready to return to Foxboro next week as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even at age 44, Brady is still playing at a high level after leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl title last season.