5 of the biggest what-ifs for the Patriots during the Bill Belichick era

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages
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What if Asante Samuel caught that interception in Super Bowl XLII?

Does it even need to be said?

Perhaps the biggest what if? in Patriots history also revolves around one of the most painful games for any New England fan to have watched or relived, even 17 years later. The Patriots just completed the best regular season in the league's history, going undefeated all the way to the Super Bowl, and the New York Giants were the only team standing in their way of recording the first 19-0 season.

They had just beaten them a few weeks before, and although it wasn't an easy matchup by any means that first time around, the Patriots were an unstoppable team loaded in all phases of the game.

We know what happened next, and unfortunately, it's a question that will likely haunt fans for the rest of their lives, regardless of whether the team won three more Super Bowls in the years after.

The final plays of Super Bowl XLII, all of which led to the infamous helmet catch, are still hard to entirely accept. What would have been the perfect season ended up becoming an absolute nightmare, and it could have been avoided in one pivotal play.

If Asante Samuel had caught that interception, the helmet catch never would have happened, and the Patriots would have walked out of Glendale the Champions. Although they had already completed the first half of the dynasty, setting multiple records on top of winning the Super Bowl would have made the season even sweeter.

Instead, it's a few-second clip that those outside New England love to post whenever they want to poke at a Patriots fan, immediately ruining an otherwise good day.

Although Samuel is the foundation of the what if?, other instances led to the interception that could have been avoided as well, ultimately dramatically altering the Patriots' fate that night. But Samuel catching the football would've been the easiest way to seal the game, and it will never not be a question fans ask themselves when reflecting upon that nightmare Super Bowl.