Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Biggest 180s: Tom Brady takes over for Drew Bledsoe

Krystle Boyajian
July 30, 2018 - 2:19 pm

On Sept. 23, 2001, the Patriots were hosting the New York Jets at Foxboro Stadium in the second game of the regular season and looking to avoid an 0-2 start after falling to the Bengals in Week 1. 

Drew Bledsoe was the starting quarterback, just as he had been for the previous eight years. That March he had signed a then-record 10-year, $103 million contract. The 29-year-old didn’t appear to be in any jeopardy of losing his job, not that season and not any time in the near future.

But then with five minutes left in the fourth quarter of that second game of the season, and the Jets leading the Patriots 10-3, everything changed.

Jets linebacker Mo Lewis landed a brutal hit on Bledsoe as the quarterback scrambled toward the sideline while trying to pick up a first down. Bledsoe was used to being hit, but this was different. While Bledsoe actually returned for the next series, he would eventually have to be rushed to Mass General with what ended up being serious internal bleeding.

With Bledsoe sidelined until November, the Patriots’ then-unknown backup, Tom Brady, took over the starting job, and the Patriots’ season and future made one of the biggest 180s in sports history.

While they still lost that game to the Jets, Brady led the Patriots to an 11-3 record the rest of the way. They won the AFC East, beat the Raiders in the famous “Snow Bowl” game in the AFC divisional round, beat the Steelers in the AFC championship game (with some help from Bledsoe after Brady went down injured), and then upset the heavily-favored Rams to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl.

After Bledsoe went down against the Jets, it would’ve been easy to write off 2001 as a lost season. Instead, it ended up being the best season in team history. And it changed the entire course of Patriots history, as Brady went on to lead the Patriots to four more Super Bowls, establishing himself as the greatest quarterback in history in the process.

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