FOXBORO, MA — Drew Bledsoe has earned the reputation of being one of the best pure passers in the game because of what he’s been able to do with his arm, not because of his running ability.
With protection and time he can pick a defense apart. When under pressure and having to run he looks as out of place as a fountain in the middle of a desert. But on every occasion in which a first down was needed he’s never been afraid of leaping into the air and accepting whatever punishing blow was coming his way to try and gain the extra yard. Every time he’s taken such a hit he’s gotten right back up and headed back to the huddle.
That wasn’t the case on Sunday.
On a 3rd-and-10 play late in the fourth quarter on Sunday Bledsoe found himself like many other times in recent years under pressure and was flushed out of the pocket. He rolled to his right and headed up the sideline in another attempt to run for a first down, but after only gaining eight of them he was leveled by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. He fell to the ground and for the first time in his nine-year career laid there motionless, unable to get up and obviously stunned.
After several minutes he got up and headed to the bench, determined to prepare himself to return to the game and bring his team back from their 10-3 deficit as he had done so many times before.
He got his chance with 3:36 remaining in the game after New England’s defense had held and given them very good field position at the Jets 39-yard line. Four plays later fullback Marc Edwards fumbled away the football on an attempted shovel-pass, and Bledsoe headed back to the sideline, where he would later find himself benched for the first time during his tenure as quarterback in New England.
Belichick said after the game that he was kept on the sidelines simply because he was concerned about his quarterback and that he probably shouldn’t have allowed him to come back into the game in the first place.
“He kind of got his bell rung,” Belichick told reporters after the game. “He said he was O.K., I thought he was O.K. but he really wasn’t. I shouldn’t have put him back in there.”
After the Pats defense held, New England got the ball back with just over 2-minutes remaining in the game. It was then that the head coach lifted the 9-year veteran in favor of his second-year back up Tom Brady. Brady came in for the final possession to try and do what Bledsoe had done repeatedly over the years, and that was lead his team to another come from behind victory.
Brady was in fact able to bring his team down the field with a chance to tie the game, but with :13 seconds remaining in the game he threw three passes incomplete and time ran out. New England again found themselves in a familiar place, and that was on the wrong end of a close game that they had plenty of chances to win.
Belichick said that he felt after watching Bledsoe in his final series on the field that he just didn’t look himself, and that was the reason why Brady entered the game.
“We put Brady in because I didn’t think [Bledsoe] was ready to go,” said Belichick. “Watching him playing that series I just didn’t think he was himself.”
“He got his bell rung on the sideline. He was out, he got up, he came back, he was coherent. I talked to him, he said he was O.K., he felt O.K. But when he went in and started playing in that series I just didn’t think he was O.K. After I watched the series, that’s what I thought.”
“I told him what the decision was that we were going to do and I did it. He understood what the decision was.”
Belichick said that Bledsoe agreed with the decision to sit out the final series, saying, “Sure, ask him.”
Bledsoe’s status for next week remains unclear, and ESPN.com also reported that Bledsoe was taken to a local hospital after the game for observation.
Posted Under: 2001 Patriots Season
Tags: 2001 Patriots Season Bill Belichick Drew Bledsoe New England Patriots New York Jets