This Friday marks the 15th anniversary of the day the Drew Bledsoe era in New England came to a screeching halt.
Every Patriots fan remembers the scene: Pats vs. New York Jets, Foxboro Stadium, Sept. 23, 2001, first game after 9/11. With New England trailing 10-3 late in the fourth quarter, Bledsoe, the team’s franchise quarterback, was leveled by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis during a third-down scramble.
Bledsoe played one more series before his injury — which medical personnel later discovered was far more serious than initially expected — forced him to leave the game. Some guy named Tom Brady replaced him, and the rest was history.
Brady blossomed into one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, while Bledsoe never started another game in a Patriots uniform.
Brady and Bledsoe both sat down this week with Don Banks of NFL Media to discuss the play that altered the course of both of their careers.
“I didn’t really see Lewis, because all I saw was the first-down marker,” Bledsoe told Banks. “It was third down and while I was running toward the sideline, I couldn’t just go out of bounds short of the first-down marker — not in that situation, late in the game. So I tried to cut back inside and see if I could get the first down, and when I did that, I gave up my body to take the hit.
“People forget that after I got hit, I went back in the game the next series. And the reason why I came out of the game after that series was because I had a concussion, as well, and I didn’t know which way was right and which way was left, and didn’t know my two-minute plays, which we had run for two years. I didn’t know I was seriously hurt until after the game.”
“I remember seeing the hit,” Brady added, “but I don’t remember much just after it. Like I said, Drew was so tough, and it was hard to really understand what was happening at that point.”
The whole piece — an oral history of sorts that also touches on Joe Andruzzi’s pregame 9/11 tribute and Bledsoe’s return to the spotlight in the AFC Championship Game — is well worth a read for any Patriots fan.