November 10, 2002
Pats Finally Get Their Wake-Up Call
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
Champaign, IL -- New England finally got their wake up call.
It didn't come after week three when the Patriots barely escaped with a 41-38 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs after giving up 180-yards rushing and two touchdowns to runningback Priest Holmes.
It didn't come when the Patriots went to San Diego and were sent home with a 21-14 loss after their defense allowed Chargers runningback LaDanian Tomlinson to run wild for 217-yards and two touchdowns.
It didn't come after the heat in Miami, Brett Favre and the Packers, or a tough loss to the Denver Broncos.
But it finally came on Sunday with 6:42 left in the third quarter against the Chicago Bears.
Chicago had just scored their third touchdown of the third quarter when New England seemed to finally realize what was about to happen to them.
They were about to lose another tough game which would have had the same old story. Turnovers, the inability to convert on third down, and the inability to come up with a key play when they needed one.
After all, the Patriots had just allowed the Bears to put up 21-points in a span of just over six minutes. Those three touchdowns were a result of a fumble, a trick play by the Bears, and a Tom Brady interception.
After the game the Patriots would have met the media and discussed all the mistakes they had made and how they had let yet another game slip away. They would have talked about how the Bears simply wanted it more than they did and that they just didn't do enough to win the game.
They also may have begun to wonder if their season had just come to an end.
Instead they finally did what they hadn't done in previous weeks.
They fought back.
They answered the Bears touchdown by driving 75-yards in 8-plays including a 19-yard pass to Antowain Smith, and two passes for 15-yards to Kevin Faulk, one of which was a touchdown that cut the lead to 27-13 with 3:04 left in the third quarter.
They intercepted the Bears on the ensuing possession and kicker Adam Vinatieri booted a 42-yard field goal to take another bite out of that lead and cut it to 11 trailing 27-16.
New England's defense forced Chicago to go three and out immediately after and then marched 54-yards on 16-plays to allow Vinatieri to knock through his fourth field goal of the game, this time from 25-yards out to pull within 8 points early in the fourth quarter.
After the Patriots special teams unit allowed a 44-yard kickoff return on the ensuing possession, the Bears got a 32-yard field goal, and the lead was back to 11 with 5:22 left in the game.
But it didn't matter. They weren't going to lose this game.
Brady marched the offense to the Chicago 36-yard line and then lofted the ball up to Kevin Faulk who made a one-handed grab in stride behind two defenders and took off to the endzone to pull within 5 with just under three minutes left in the game.
It was now up to New England's defense to stop the Bears and give the team one last chance to win the football game, and it certainly didn't appear that they were going to get it done.
On first down they gave up a nine-yard run to Anthony Thomas and with just two timeouts remaining would have been in tough shape had they allowed the Bears to get a first down. They then stopped Thomas for no gain and then stopped him for a loss on third down, two huge plays that now set up what may be the drive that turned their season around.
Troy Brown returned the punt 11-yards which gave the Patriots the ball at their own 44-yard line with 1:50 left in the contest. Brady completed a pass for 19-yards to David Patten and then after an incompletion and a 7-yard pass to Kevin Faulk they found themselves facing a third-and-three at the Bears 30-yard line. Brady dropped back to pass and attempted to throw to tight end Cam Cleeland, and appeared to be intercepted by defensive lineman Brian Robinson who stepped in front of Brady's pass. But instant replay revealed that Robinson never had control of the football and the pass was ruled incomplete, keeping New England's drive alive.
And on 4th-and-3 Tom Brady found a way to get three yards on a quarterback sneak, and the stage was set for a fantastic finish.
Three plays later, it came.
On another 3rd-and-3 Brady dropped back to pass and was for a moment was grabbed from behind, but Brady stepped up and threw a perfect strike to wide receiver David Patten who caught the ball in the back of the endzone for the Patriots winning touchdown. The play was reviewed when the officials weren't sure that both of Patten's feet were in bounds, but replay showed he dragged his left foot and the touchdown stood.
A two-point conversion gave them a 33-30 lead that the Bears wouldn't challenge, and suddenly a game that could have ended early in the third quarter had gone their way.
They had fought back, something they hadn't done against the Chargers, Dolphins, Packers or Broncos.
Better yet they finally showed signs of being the team that won it all last season.
They had overcome the fact that their first 3rd down conversion didn't come until there was five and a half minutes left in the third quarter.
They had also overcome the fact that they could have easily given up after things had fallen apart when they gave up 21-unanswerd points in the third quarter.
However they never gave up, and now they have gotten themselves back in the hunt for the AFC East after the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night to even things out with all three teams tied for first place at 5-4.
But for now the talk will be about the amazing comeback Bill Belichick's team pulled off on Sunday, and how all it takes is just one big victory to jumpstart a team for a playoff run.
Hopefully this was that game for the Patriots.
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