Twenty-two years ago, a routine rollout capped with a thunderous hit helped launch one of the most extraordinary careers in NFL history.
Entering the 4th quarter and with the Patriots trailing the New York Jets 10-3 on 3rd-and-10, three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Bledsoe dropped back and pumped once, furiously scanning the secondary. Facing an onslaught of Jets pass rushers and a catastrophic turnover on downs, Bledsoe decided to effort the first down with his legs, scrambling down the right sideline.
About a yard short of the first down marker, Bledsoe was crunched by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, producing an impact so loud, it could be heard down the length of the Patriots sideline. Bledsoe lay on the sidelines for a few moments as trainers attended to the franchise QB.
While Bledsoe would eventually reenter the game, he was unable to finish the contest, leaving unknown backup QB Tom Brady to take the final snaps in the loss that would drop New England to 0-2.
Bledsoe was later transported to the hospital in an ambulance to be treated for internal bleeding and was unable to take the field again for several weeks.
In the games following the hit, Brady led the Patriots to a 14-3 record, three of those wins coming during New England’s improbable run to their first Super Bowl championship.
More wins would follow after that.
Bledsoe would have one last triumphant moment in the sun as Patriots QB. Appearing in relief of Brady after the sophomore-year QB suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter of the 2001 AFC Championship Game, Bledsoe threw for 102 yards and a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the last of 172 he would throw in a Patriots uniform, as he led New England to the Super Bowl to the second time in his career.
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