The New England Patriots are a part of an elite category in NFL History—from 2001-2005, they developed a dynasty.
The Patriots won three out of four Super Bowls during those years, and proved that a dynasty could be established in an era of capped salaries.
Head coach Bill Belichick led the Patriots through those dominant years, but he had a lot of help on his side. With quarterback Tom Brady, kicker Adam Vinatieri and a stone-wall defense, the team climbed atop the NFL.
Here are the top ten players that were a part of New England's suffocating defense.
Asante Samuel came on late in New England's dynastic years.
Samuel was drafted by New England in 2003 and played in all 16 regular-seasons games as a rookie. At the start of the 2004 regular season, cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole were set to be the starters, but due to injuries, Samuel stepped in.
Samuel started in Super Bowl XXXIX, and played a major role in the Patriots' third Super Bowl victory.
Along with Samuel, Eugene Wilson was drafted in 2003, and was a key leader in a very young secondary.
Wilson missed only one game in 2003 and 2004, when the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls. He is well remembered for his devastating hit on Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne in one of many epic playoff battles with Indianapolis.
Wilson's best game came against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2004 AFC Championship Game, when he intercepted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice in New England's 41-27 victory.
Probably one of the most underrated players in New England's dynasty is linebacker Roman Phifer.
Phifer was a part of all of New England's three Super Bowl wins.
In 2001, Phifer was a defensively leader.
"Roman Phifer is the MVP of the season," said teammate Terrell Buckley, after winning Super Bowl XXXVI.
Phifer continued to play solidly for Bill Belichick, and was named a Pro-Bowl alternate on multiple occasions during his time in New England.
Ted Johnson is one of the all-time great Patriots linebackers.
Johnson played in all three of New England's Super Bowls, and was most effective in the team's first and last Super Bowl victories.
The physical linebacker led the team to their first championship with a bone-bruising performance against the St. Louis Rams in 2001.
Rodney Harrison is one of New England's best strong safeties ever. Harrison could cover like a free safety, but could be just as physical as a middle linebacker, if not more so.
Harrison was a part of the 2003 and 2004 title-winning teams, and made sure that the young and developing defense was a smart and physical one.
He was the team's best defender in 2004, and was just unreal in the playoffs.
In three games, Harrison recorded four interceptions, two of them in the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Harrison will go down in the record books as one of the toughest to ever play the game.
Outside linebacker Willie McGinest holds the NFL record with the most playoff sacks (16).
McGinest is one of the all-time great New England Patriots, and fans will never forget No. 55.
He was a part of all of the franchise's three Super Bowl victories, and was an all-around team player.
McGinest is well-known for the team's famous goal-line stand against the Indianapolis Colts in 2003, when he stuffed running back Edgerrin James on fourth down.
In Super Bowl XXXIX against Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles, he switched positions to help the team. Rather than playing as outside linebacker, he moved to the defensive line to prevent McNabb from scrambling.
Ty Law will be known as one of the greatest shut-down cornerbacks of all time.
Law was a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, and his performance in 2001 will go down in history.
Though St. Louis' offense was known as "The Greatest Show on Turf," Law shut down Rams' receiver Tory Holt in Super Bowl XXXVI. Law intercepted Kurt Warner and returned the ball 47 yards for New England's first points of the contest.
In the 2003 AFC Title Game against the Colts, Law picked off Manning three times and led the Patriots to a victory and another Super Bowl berth.
Mike Vrabel excelled in New England—sacking quarterbacks defensively or catching touchdown passes offensively.
He caught 10 passes as a Patriot, all for touchdowns. Vrabel also become the first defensive player to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl since William "Refidgerator" Perry did it in 1986—against the Patriots.
Richard Seymour was a key part of New England's three championship-winning defenses. He might not have always put up big numbers, but offenses game-planned around him, much like Vince Wilfork today.
Seymour was injured throughout most of the 2004 postseason, but returned for the Super Bowl to record a sack against the Eagles.
Bruschi defines what New England is all about and was the team's captain, alongside Tom Brady, throughout the dynastic years.
Bruschi has been a part of nearly every single memorable moment in Patriots history—his pick-six versus the Miami Dolphins sparked the memorable snow-fireworks, and who could forget his stripping of the ball from the hands of Edgerrin James in the 2004 playoffs?
When Bruschi retired, Bill Belichick was nearly brought to tears and described Bruschi as the "perfect player."