Bill Belichick was more than happy to take a stroll down memory lane Tuesday morning during a conference call with Indianapolis Colts reporters.
The subject: Adam Vinatieri’s 45-yard field goal through a blizzard in the 2001 divisional round that helped launch the New England Patriots dynasty.
It was one of the seminal moments in Patriots history and, in Belichick’s opinion, the greatest kick in of all time.
“I would say it was by far the greatest kick I have ever seen,” the Patriots coach said. “The conditions were very difficult. There were probably three to four inches of snow on the ground. It was a soft snow that kind of didn’t go away. I mean, there was no way to get around it. The magnitude of the kick was significant. It’s got to be the greatest kick of all time, certainly that I’ve seen.”
Just two players from that 2001 Patriots team — which went on to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl title two weeks later — remain active in the NFL. One is quarterback Tom Brady, who earned NFL MVP honors last season at age 40. The other is Vinatieri, who still is going strong in his 23rd NFL season.
Belichick hasn’t coached Vinatieri since the latter left New England for Indianapolis after the 2005 season, but he still holds the veteran kicker in extremely high regard.
“Adam is a great player,” Belichick said. “He was a great player here and has been a great player for the Colts, great person. He works hard. He certainly doesn’t fit the classic profile for a kicker. He is more of a football player. He’s physically and mentally tough. When he was here, he trained and worked out with all the players. There was no special program for him as a kicker or anything like that. He embraced that.
“He had a great relationship with his teammates because of the way he worked, how competitive and mentally and physically tough he was and how he was willing to help out in other areas of the team — scout team and things like that. Whatever the team needed, he was always great about that.”
Vinatieri, who will turn 46 in December, broke Morten Andersen’s NFL record for career field goals Sunday, booting Nos. 566 and 567 in an overtime loss to the Houston Texans. Belichick considers him a surefire Hall of Famer and perhaps the greatest kicker in NFL history.
“He has had a fabulous career,” Belichick said. “Certainly, in my opinion, the greatest kicker in the game. Not just for his longevity and production but the magnitude of some of the kicks that he made and the difficulty — particularly the (Snow Bowl kick). But there were many besides that — the kick in the Super Bowl (against the St. Louis Rams) and the kick in the Carolina Super Bowl. I mean, there were just big games after big games. …
“Adam came through for us with some enormous kicks. Congratulations to him and to the great career that he has, and honestly, it doesn’t seem like there is much sign of him slowing down. The ball continues to go right in the middle of the uprights. It never curves. It doesn’t hook. It just goes straight down the middle. So he just has an unbelievable level of consistency.”
Vinatieri will return to Gillette Stadium for the first time since the 2014 AFC Championship Game when the Patriots host the Colts this Thursday night.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images