Birth of a dynasty: Remembering Tom Brady's first Super Bowl win 20 years later
After initially snubbing all of New England in his official retirement announcement Tuesday, Tom Brady walked back those omissions in the following days. In addition to thanking Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft, Brady shared a montage of fond memories Wednesday from his time in New England.
One memory featured prominently was the Patriots' victory in Super Bowl XXXVI — which was Brady's first Super Bowl victory and first Super Bowl MVP — a game that took place 20 years ago Thursday.
An unlikely path
Brady entered the 2001 season as the backup to starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe, a former No. 1 overall pick who had just signed a 10-year contract with the Patriots in March.
However, a hit from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis during a Week 2 game sidelined Bledsoe for several week. Brady stepped in and went 11-3 as a starter during the 2001 season, propelling the Patriots to the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoff bracket. Bledsoe appeared once more in the AFC Championship game after Brady sprained his ankle.
Brady's NFL playoff debut was a controversial one. Hosting the Oakland Raiders in the divisional round, a late fourth-quarter drive was sustained when a Brady fumble was overturned to an incomplete pass thanks to an invocation of what was then a little-known rule. Thus, the infamous "Tuck Rule" game was born. Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri capped the drive with a tying field goal.
The Patriots took care of business against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game and prepared to face the St. Louis Rams, dubbed "The Greatest Show on Turf," in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.
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First of many
Although the Rams drew first blood as quarterback Kurt Warner went 6 of 7 passing for 43 yards to set up a 50-yard field goal for kicker Jeff Wilkins, a stout Patriots defense held on long enough to give Brady and the New England's offense a chance.
It was that defensive group that scored the first New England touchdown when Ty Law intercepted Warner and went 47 yards the other way to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.
Later that quarter, Brady drove the Patriots down the field and tossed an 8-yard touchdown to David Patten for a 14-3 New England lead at halftime. It was the first time all season St. Louis had trailed by as many as eight points.
The Patriots defense held tough in the third quarter, thwarting a promising drive from Warner thanks to a joint sack from Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour. Another Vinatieri field goal made it a 17-3 game as play moved to the fourth quarter.
The Rams finally carved deep into Patriots' territory but Warner fumbled on a fourth-and-goal rush attempt and the ball was returned 97 yards for a touchdown by New England defensive back Tebucky Jones.
Despite the Patriots appearing to establish a 23-3 lead, the play was called back due to a New England holding penalty. The Rams earned a first down at the Patriots' 1-yard line and Warner scored to make it a one-touchdown game.
On their next drive, Warner threw his first passing touchdown of the game — a 26-yard throw to Ricky Proehl — to tie the game at 17 with 1:30 left in the fourth.
With no timeouts, Brady drove down the field with completions to Troy Brown, J.R. Redmond and Jermaine Wiggins before spiking the ball with seven seconds left.
Vinatieri converted a game-tying kick. The Patriots won the overtime coin toss and Super Bowl XXXVI thanks to another Vinatieri field goal. This one from 23 yards.
Starting a dynasty
Brady was named Super Bowl MVP despite being outplayed statistically by Warner, whose 365 passing yards were the second-most in Super Bowl history at the time. But it was Brady who quarterbacked a game-winning drive in the final two minutes. Brady was 16 for 27 passing for 145 yards and a touchdown but did not commit a turnover.
Although the Patriots went 9-7 and missed the 2002 playoffs, New England won the following two Super Bowls and established a dynasty in which they won three of four Super Bowls and six total over an 18-year span with Belichick and Brady at the helm.
Over his 22-year career, Brady appeared in 10 Super Bowls and won seven of them with five Super Bowl MVP awards.
While he may not have lit up the stat sheet during his Super Bowl XXXVI performance, his first trip to the big game was certainly a harbinger of things to come.