September 23, 2001, a date that will live in infamy. The date that Tom Brady, a second-year backup quarterback, came off the bench late in the fourth quarter to replace an injured Drew Bledsoe. Bledsoe took a big hit from Mo Lewis, suffering internal injuries and a concussion. Here are a collection of things from that week that you may have forgotten.
Drew Bledsoe did not initially come out of the game: Bledsoe was injured on a 3rd and 10 run, getting drilled out of bounds two yards short. The Patriots punted on the next play, and when they got the ball back in Jets’ territory after a short punt with 3:36 left, down 7, it was Bledsoe who came back out. Bledsoe completed a short pass to Marc Edwards, who fumbled. When the Patriots got the ball back again with 2:16 left and no timeouts, that’s when Brady entered the game.
The Patriots originally told sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein that it was a coach’s decision and Bledsoe was not hurt: The first time the Patriots were questioned for their honesty in the Tom Brady era came mere seconds after it began. The game was in the late afternoon feature slot, with Bonnie Bernstein on the sideline, and Dan Dierdorf and Dick Enberg on the call. According to the Boston Globe’s story “PR Staff Misled Reporter Bernstein Unhappy with Explanation”, the team told her that Bledsoe was not replaced due to injury, and she reported as much to the booth as Brady took the field.
Dan Dierdorf said on the broadcast: “[t]here’s no question Drew Bledsoe was hurt on that out-of-bounds play.” After Bernstein’s report, Dierdorf said “Bledsoe was not replaced due to injury, and I did not misspeak.” Later, he added, “It’s not for me to call the Patriots liars.”
Bernstein said the following in the Globe’s piece: “If there’s a reasonable explanation, I’d like to think they’d tell me. It’s my job to get that information, but I’m not allowed to speak directly to the trainers. You have to go through the PR staff. The whole situation is discouraging to me because it’s my primary responsibility to know what’s going on on the sideline. If there was a reasonable explanation, I’d like to think they’d tell me. I’m not out to try to hurt a team by providing misinformation. But, CBS is the NFL’s TV rightsholder. We’re trying to give accurate facts and promote the game.”
Patriots publicist Stacey James explained: “The information came from the player (Bledsoe), not the coach, and we can only relay it. Dierdorf called it into question and he was right. We were wrong. Everyone at CBS did exactly what they’re supposed to do. I regret we weren’t able to provide more accurate information.”
Belichick initially said of Tom Brady starting the next week, “I don’t think we’re talking about John Elway here.”: Here’s a great quote from Belichick the next day after announcing that Brady would start at least a few weeks. “I don’t think we’re talking about John Elway here, but I don’t know how many of those there are. He’s got a good NFL arm,” Belichick said. “I really don’t think I’m going to be standing here week after week talking about the problems that Tom Brady had. I have confidence in him.”
Bob Kravitz nailed it in his preview: Yeah, yeah, Patriots fans and Bob Kravitz may not get along now, but let’s check out how things began.
From Kravitz’ preview article (“Gaudy Odds Give Colts Elite Status”) of the Patriots-Colts game, where Indianapolis was a 12-point favorite on the road.
"The number tells me three things: * The Colts have moved up to the national “A” list of serious Super Bowl contenders. * The Patriots, who stunk when Drew Bledsoe still was in possession of all his internal organs, will be woeful with somebody named Tom Brady. * The Colts ought to win this game. "
And it goes on from there. Yes, no one suspects a backup drafted in the 6th round will turn into a Hall of Famer, but Kravitz’ piece is a tour de force of arrogance and dismissiveness.
He was not alone.
However, Ken Powers of the Worcester Telegraph and Gazette said this:
OK, let’s get this over with. The Patriots- yes, your New England Patriots- will defeat the Indianapolis Colts, 35-7, this afternoon at Foxboro Stadium with quarterback Tom Brady throwing four touchdown passes in the win.
I’m not delusional, and I haven’t been smoking anything, and I’m not just being dramatic or saying this to get a rise out of people. This is going to happen.
Could I be wrong? Sure. All someone has to do is look at my career record picking games to know that. But, if- sorry, when- I’m right, it won’t do any good to try to tell people this tomorrow; it will be too late.
Why so sure? I don’t know. I used to tell people it was a gut feeling- and it’s a pretty big gut- but after losing 97 pounds in four months, I can’t even say that any more.
Powers was wrong. The final was 44-13 New England, and Brady didn’t throw any touchdowns.