20 years ago today, a play during a Week 2 New England Patriots vs. New York Jets game changed NFL history. Mo Lewis knocked Pats quarterback Drew Bledsoe out of the game on a huge hit. In stepped largely unknown backup Tom Brady, who had one pass attempt as a rookie the year before.
On a play deep in Patriots territory, Bledsoe was flushed out of the pocket. He attempted to reach the first down marker with his legs, not generally a strength for Bledsoe, taking a wallop from Lewis just short.
Brady entered the game, and completed 5-of-10 passes for 46 yards, running once for nine yards. It certainly wasn't the kind of first significant appearance that screamed "greatest quarterback ever," but just months later, he led the team to its first Super Bowl.
Fast forward to 2021, and Brady has seven Super Bowls under his belt, with two different teams. It's hard to argue against him as the greatest quarterback, if not the greatest NFL player, of all time. And it all started with one play in an early-season AFC East game.
While the play is best known for bringing Brady into our lives, it was a frightening moment for Drew Bledsoe beyond that. He suffered a sheared blood vessel, which nearly killed him.
Most forget that aspect of the story. Bledsoe admits that he doesn't enjoy the annual celebration of Sept. 23 for that very reason. He spoke to Sports Illustratedabout it back in 2016.
The team would stick with Tom Brady after the Super Bowl run, while Bledsoe would move on to the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys, playing until 2006. It should also be remembered that the Pats likely don't get through the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2001 AFC Championship.
Brady left that game with an injury. Bledsoe stepped in, throwing or 102 yards and a touchdown in relief, leading the team to a 24-17 win and a trip to the Super Bowl.