Patriots rookie quarterback
Drew Bledsoe stood poised in the pocket in overtime against division
rival Miami. The Dolphins blitzed when Bledsoe spotted receiver Michael
Timpson sprinting down the right side of the field. Bledsoe was hit
just as he released a perfectly arch spiral toward the end zone.
“I didn’t see
Timpson real clearly when I threw it, but I saw the defensive back
trailing him,” said the young Bledsoe following the January 2, 1994
game. “I saw the ball coming down and then I was on the ground.”
The ball came down right in
the arms of Timpson just as Bledsoe hit the turf to score the
game-winning touchdown. As he lay on the Foxboro Stadium field, Bledsoe
said he “heard the crowd go crazy.” Although New England finished that
season 5-11, it was the fourth straight victory to end the season. The
victory not only kept the Dolphins out of the playoffs, it also helped
catapult a new sense of winning in New England.
Bledsoe would help resurrect a
franchise that once was the laughing stock of the league. It’s fitting
Bledsoe is nominated for enshrinement into the Patriots Hall of Fame
this month along with former defensive end Houston Antwine and Coach
Bill Parcells. “It’s a great honor to be considered for the Patriots
Hall of Fame,” Bledsoe told the New England media during a recent
conference call following his nomination for induction.
Bledsoe was the first overall
pick in the 1993 NFL Draft by then first year coach Parcells. “You've
got the small town kid from Walla Walla (Washington) moving across the
country and being installed as a figurehead of an organization,” said
Bledsoe. “It was pretty heady times.”
Bill Parcells remembered the
top two quarterbacks in the draft were Bledsoe and Rick Mirer. “Drew
was a young man, 20 years old at the time, coming out from Washington State,”
said Parcells to the New England media recently. “He had been a
terrific passer in the Pac-10. Rick Mirer of course was at Notre Dame,
the level of competition just a little bit better, but he was 23 years
old. And a lot of my thought process and our thought process in the
scouting there was, 'Well, Drew can make all the throws and he's a
little bit younger and certainly not as mature as Mirer, but where is
he going to be when he's 23 years old? And he's got a three year window
to certainly get pro football into his system and learn about it.'
was Parcells' guy afte rbeing piecked in the first round.
“Of course, I personally was
very happy that we picked him,” Parcells said. “And he really had a
very, very, good career and came in and really helped get the franchise
established. He really was thrown to the wolves a little bit, and he
survived that and was able to get himself grounded and did a terrific
job for New England for a long time.”
In nine seasons with the
Patriots, he would break the Patriots’ career passing records for
attempts, completions and yards. He had 2,544 completions on 4,518
attempts for 29,657 yards. These records have since been broken by Tom Brady, but
this should not diminish Bledsoe’s contribution to an
organization that could have been easily moved to St. Louis following
his rookie season. Instead, with new life and hope pumped into the
franchise, just 19 days after the Patriots thrilling overtime victory
over the Dolphins, Robert Kraft became the Patriots fourth owner in the
club’s then 35-year history with an agreement to buy the team from
James Orthwein, finally giving the franchise stability.
“That rookie year, I've said a
number of times that it was a little bit like sticking your head in a
popcorn machine; everything was happening so fast,” said Bledsoe. “To
finish that first season winning four in a row and to beat the Dolphins
on the last play of the season to knock them out of the playoffs, that
was a memory that certainly clearly stands out.”
The Patriots had a combined
record of 9 wins and 39 losses with six different quarterbacks the
previous three seasons prior to Bledsoe’s arrival in New England.
Bledsoe gave the Patriots stability at the quarterback position and
eventually helped lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl in just his
One of Bledsoe’s best moments
with the Patriots came in a November home game in 1994 against Warren
Moon and the Vikings. Bledsoe entered the game with the Patriots in
last place with a 3-6 record. Moon and the Vikings had a 20-0 lead in
the first half. Coach Bill Parcells then decided to let Bledsoe take
over the game toward the end of the half allowing him to run the
two-minute drill the rest of the game. The future of the franchise was
in Drew’s hands.
In one of the best
come-from-behind games ever by a quarterback, Bledsoe threw an NFL
record 70 passes and completed a record 45. He was never intercepted.
He led his team to 20 unanswered points, tying the game with only 14
seconds left. In overtime, Bledsoe drove the Patriots down field,
winning the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass that landed majestically
in the arms of fullback Kevin Turner in the back of the end zone.
Bledsoe finished with three touchdown passes in the game.
mentored Brady as the Pats marched toward their first Super
The victory also sparked a
seven game win streak for the Patriots and a playoff berth, the first
in eight seasons for the once downtrodden franchise. Since then, the
football culture in New England went from one of losing, to an
expectation to win.
Bledsoe still holds Patriots’
single-season passing records for attempts with 691 and completions
with 400. He is the only player in team history to pass for 400 yards
in a game four times. In his 124 regular season games with the
Patriots, he is third on the team’s all-time list with 166 touchdown
Bledsoe, a three time pro
bowler with the Patriots, would eventually show diminished production
toward the end of his Patriots career. Then Mo Lewis of the Jets hit
Bledsoe during the second game of the 2001 season severing an artery in
his lung. The injury was potentially life-threatening, but as he
recovered, he lost his job as the face of the franchise to future NFL
Bledsoe was clear at the time
he did not think it was fair he lost his job as the starting
quarterback due to the injury. He also said he looked forward to the
“opportunity” to win his job back. History proved that never would
happen. It was Brady’s team now.
Bledsoe was able to briefly
reprise his role as the Patriots quarterback in the AFC Championship
game against the Steelers when Brady sprained his ankle in the game.
Bledsoe entered the game with the Patriots driving to the Steelers
40-yard line. He threw three straight completions, ending with an
11-yard touchdown throw to David Patten.
Before the final play of the
AFC Championship game and the Patriots leading 24-17, Bledsoe gritted
his teeth in the Patriots huddle as the emotion of the moment was
visibly welling up behind his face mask. Bledsoe knew this game meant
more than just helping the Patriots get back to the Super Bowl.
and Patten celbrate their game-winning TD vs the Steelers in January of
(Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
It was “certainly one (moment) that will
always be ingrained in my mind,” Bledsoe said. “When I got to finally
come back in and play against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game
in Pittsburgh when Tommy sprained his ankle, that's a memory that I
will take with me forever and ever.”
Bledsoe took the final snap on
the Steelers’ 35-yard line and knelt on the Heinz Field turf to run out
the clock. As the Patriots celebrated around Bledsoe, he remained
frozen on his knee for a few moments before collapsing to the ground in
tears. It was his final snap as the quarterback of the New England Patriots.
“To be able to come back in
after not playing and to help our team to win that game to get to
another Super Bowl, (it) is a memory that will always stick with me,”
he said. Bledsoe was traded to the Bills in the offseason.
The young kid from Walla
Walla, Washington did well in New England. He came to the Patriots when
it was a losing franchise and left a Super Bowl Champion.
Fans can vote for their favorite Patriots Hall of Fame
finalist at the team's official website. Voting
ends May 15th
Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist
to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has
extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share
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