Top 10 playoff games of the Brady/Belichick era (Part 1)
By Mike Caliri
8. 2001 AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh Steelers
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Vegas Line: Steelers -10.0
The 2001 AFC Championship Game’s storyline was one of those narratives in sports that you just can’t make up.
First-year starter Tom Brady was forced to leave the game in the first half after suffering an ankle injury. In comes Drew Bledsoe, who of course lost his starting job to Brady after suffering a sheared blood vessel in his chest during Week 2 of the regular season.
On the second play the Patriots ran with Bledsoe in the game, he ran up the sideline and got popped by Steelers defensive back Chad Scott – an eerily similar play to the one that originally sent Bledsoe to the hospital in Week 2.
Thankfully, Bledsoe hopped up to his feet immediately and, clearly fired up, started pumping his fists and clapping as he made his way back out onto the field. Soon after, the Patriots backup signal-caller tossed two straight completions to David Givens, including the first offensive touchdown of the game.
Aside from the storyline at quarterback, Troy Brown made some incredible plays on special teams… including a 55 yard punt return right up the middle of the field for a touchdown, and a blocked field goal that he recovered and lateraled to Antwan Harris for a touchdown.
The Patriots were up 21-3 late in the third quarter, but Pittsburgh rallied – scoring 14 unanswered points to get within four. Finally, an Adam Vinatieri field goal and a Tebucky Jones interception late in the game sealed the victory for the Pats.
And so it was that on the back of an old friend, the Patriots were bound for Super Bowl XXXVI. Fantastic game, but an even better story.