Back in September of 2001, things weren’t looking too good for the Patriots. The team was coming off a 5-11 season under head coach Bill Belichick, backup quarterback Tom Brady was preparing to start his first game in replacement of seriously injured Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots sat at 0-2. The outlook was grim when the AFC East rival Indianapolis Colts were coming to town. Quarterback Peyton Manning was hitting his groove as the Colts began to dominate the division. Their season was drastically different than that of the Patriots, after they had convincingly defeated the Jets 45-24 and the Buffalo Bills 42-26. They were having the most productive start in Colts history.
The Patriots started that game on September 30, 2001 three-and-out with little hope and then it happened. Peyton Manning passed to Jerome Pathon on second down and Pathon was subsequently walloped by newly-acquired Patriots linebacker Bryan Cox. It was the incendiary hit of the season that sent the Patriots on a course of dynasty status. After that hit, it was as if the team came alive.
The Patriots finished 2001 as World Champions and the Colts, with a fired head coach (“PLAYOFFS?! PLAYOFFS?!”).
A dynasty was born, a rivalry was ignited and a new chapter will be written Sunday. How many hours until 4:15 p.m., Sunday?