Ten years ago on Friday, the NFL returned to action after postponing the season for a week because of 9/11. And it was through that action that NFL history occurred without most realizing it. On Sept. 23, 2001, New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis slammed into Drew Bledsoe so hard that the New England Patriots quarterback was rushed to the hospital with severe internal bleeding in his chest.
Bledsoe could have died, but his injury gave life to the legend of Tom Brady.
Since then, the world and the NFL have changed dramatically. Various players and teams have shined but, by and large, Brady has ruled the league. Brady has been the NFL's best player and one of the greatest of all time. He has led New England to three Super Bowl titles. And he got his chance thanks to a hit that still is felt 10 years later.
Now, through two games, as New England heads into Buffalo for a meaningful early-season matchup, Brady is putting up numbers that rival the historic stats he posted during the Patriots' unbeaten 2007 regular season. Four years ago, Brady threw for six touchdowns, one interception and 576 yards in New England's first two games. This season, he has thrown for seven touchdowns, one interception and 940 yards in New England's first two games. The Patriots have scored at least 30 points in 10 consecutive regular-season games, four games short of the NFL record the St. Louis Rams set in 1999-2000, when they scored 30-plus in 14 straight games. With Brady playing as well as he ever has, the Rams' record and another Vince Lombardi Trophy seem attainable.
Our society and sports constantly recognize significant anniversaries. None in the NFL is any more significant than the hit that changed the next decade.