An interesting debate among Patriot fans is at what exact moment in 2001 did the Patriot dynasty begin?
Or perhaps it was the Tuck Rule game, when Oakland Raider cornerback Charles Woodson appeared to strip-sack Tom Brady on a critical late series in the now infamous Divisional Round game.
You could make a solid argument for both, but I’ve always believed the single play that sparked a legacy of unprecedented dominance was made in that year’s Super Bowl by one of the greatest cornerback’s to ever play the game:
Ty Law‘s pick six.
At the time, the Patriots were still upstarts against the Greatest Show on Turf. They were trailing, as was expected, and were unable to get into an offensive rhythm.
As linebacker Mike Vrabel put pressure on league-MVP Kurt Warner, his pass sailed high and into the arms of Law. He raced 47 yards down the sideline, his right arm raised as if to say, “try and stop me”, to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead in what would end up being one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.
That moment gave New England hope that it could do the impossible, that they could be David to slay Goliath. Little did Law know, or any Patriot for that matter, that that play would catapult the Patriots into the Goliath spot that they have yet to relinquish.
Fifteen years and four Lombardi trophies later, Law has become an iconic symbol of the early 2000’s Patriots and their impenetrable defense. He routinely jumped routes and took interceptions the distance with such fluidity, it looked like an art form that few corners have been able to replicate.
Fittingly, Law was named one of the fifteen finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this week and his candidacy as a first ballot Hall of Fame player should warrant little doubt.
"“Ty Law was one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the premier corners in the NFL during his Patriots career,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said of Law after hearing of him being named a finalist. “We have had an incredible run of success and the building blocks started with players like Ty. He was an important part of three Super Bowl championship teams.”"
Law finished his career with 53 interceptions, seven of which were returned for scores. He is also tied for the Patriots record of career interceptions, with 36. And while his statistics certainly warrant considerations as a Hall of Fame player, it was when his interceptions came that have made him a stone cold lock to get into Canton.
One of many memorable clutch performers for the Patriots, Law’s career defining moments often came in critical games or situations. His Super Bowl XXXVI interception was his career defining moment, but it was not his only contribution to the Patriot run.
Perhaps equally as memorable to Patriot fans was his three interception performance against league-MVP Peyton Manning and the Colts in the 2003 AFC Championship game in snowy Foxboro. Law’s performance in this game was so dominant, the Colts were able to lobby successfully to the NFL to change how physical defensive backs could be with receivers.
Law will find out if he makes the final cut on February 4, but in terms of game changing ability and dominance at the position, the choice should be an easy one.
Almost as easy as Law made his play look.