If ever there were a true team of destiny, the 2001 New England Patriots were it. Coming off a 5-11 debut season with Bill Belichick at the helm, they opened their season with an embarrassing trouncing in Cincinnati followed by a loss to the division rival New York Jets that saw their franchise quarterback nearly die on the field.
The brand new Bill Belichick era looked to be no different than any other for this one time hapless organization.
A fourth string quarterback named Tom Brady was inserted into the starting lineup and it looked as if the season was over before it even started. The team didn’t give up though and heading into week 10 against the St. Louis Rams they were a surprising 5-4.
In front of national television on November 18, The Patriots season was permanently altered. Walking into an inferno against the defending Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams, also known as “The Greatest Show on Turf,” the Patriots didn’t blink.
Behind a rigid, Tedy Bruschi led defense, which forced three turnovers, the Patriots hung with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, and Torry Holt and held them to an uncharacteristic 24 points.
They may have lost by 10, but in the process New England gained an inner confidence that said they could compete against the best in the league. From that point on, the Patriots didn’t lose another game.
Not that anything was easy along the way; almost every game was a nail biter but they performed like the poster boys of perseverance. There was a one point win in a rematch with the Jets, a three point win in Buffalo, and then one of the most memorable contests in recent NFL history, the last football game played in Foxboro stadium. The snow bowl against Oakland.
Every football fan is familiar with this one. Adam Vinatieri banging two incredible field goals through the uprights, one being over 40 yards to put the game into overtime and the other to win it. Then there was the play that spawned a massive amount of controversy.
Charles Woodson blitzed on the right side of the line, Brady never saw him coming and the ball was knocked loose. The Raiders recovered, but the play was overturned on account of the infamous “tuck rule”.
Once again, being a team of destiny isn’t a walk in the park. You still have to relentlessly claw, scrap, and battle because if you don’t, that whole team of providence claim will never come into fruition.
They were an original bunch; a trendsetting group of role players who understood what it meant to be one of 52 (they were the first squad in Super Bowl history to be introduced as a team instead of individually).
There was no existing hierarchy besides Coach Belichick at the top; the playing field was equal. There were no superstars, no spoiled brats, and no show boaters. This was a collection of hardworking; nose to the grindstone football players that didn't believe any obstacle loomed too large and no opposition couldn't be toppled.
The 2001 New England Patriots weren’t the most talented team in the NFL that year (they entered the Super Bowl as two touchdown under-dogs) but they played with a once in a lifetime sense of urgency and a will to win not too many teams from any sport have ever displayed.