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Review: “The Dynasty” Episode 2 – The Snow Bowl



New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, top, is hoisted to the shoulders of his teammates after his game-winning overtime field goal against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Foxboro Stadium, in Foxboro, Mass., Saturday Jan. 19, 2002. The Patriots won 16-13. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The New England Patriots’ incredible run under the trio of Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady is being captured in a docuseries called “The Dynasty” on Apple TV. Patriots Football Now will be reviewing each episode. There will be ‘spoilers’ about the content of the episodes in these reviews, but presumably, anyone reading this already knows the outcomes of the actual events.

Episode 1 left off with the Patriots losing in Week 10 of the 2001 season to the St. Louis Rams 24-17. Even owner Robert Kraft was doubting Bill Belichick had made the right decision to stick with Tom Brady instead of Drew Bledsoe. The loss made New England 5-5 on the season with six games still to play. Belichick sticking with Brady was a risky decision, one which likely would have cost him his job if it did not work out.

But before moving any further in 2001, director Matthew Hamachek takes us backward.

2000 NFL Draft

Tom Brady, his family, and Patriots executive Scott Pioli relive the 2000 NFL Draft. Brady acknowledges he didn’t expect to be a first-round pick, but then the second and third rounds come and go. Brady gets frustrated and nervous about not being selected at all. He leaves his house to go out and walk.

By the time the sixth round rolls around, the New England Patriots have Tom Brady as easily the top player remaining on their board. They do not need a quarterback but opt for the best player available. The Patriots’ “war room” agrees on the pick and phones it into the league. Then a second phone call is placed. One side of that call is captured on video.

“Congratulations,” Bill Belichick says into the phone. He then responds, “Well, we’re excited to have you. Sorry to make you wait so long.”

And with that, Tom Brady is a New England Patriot.

Robert Kraft then tells the story of meeting his newest quarterback for the first time. “Mr. Kraft, I want you to know I’m Tom Brady.”

Kraft explains to Brady that he knows who he is, how he played for Michigan, etc. Brady finishes off their introductory chat by letting Kraft know, “I’m the best decision your organization has ever made.”

Back to 2001

The episode then goes back to where the first episode left off, with the Patriots losing to the Rams. As discussed in the Episode 1 review, Bill Belichick is questioned about his quarterback situation following the loss. Belichick explains to the media that he is paid to make decisions for the franchise.

“I’m going to make the decisions that I think are best for the entire team,” emphasizes Belichick. “T-E-A-M team.”

Clips are shows of national analysts criticizing the decision to stick with Brady for the remainder of the season. Michael Wilbon and Chris Collinsworth are among Belichick’s critics of the choice. Focus then shifts to the MVP of Episode 2…

Ernie Adams

Bill Belichick’s longtime friend and co-worker Ernie Adams is featured. Adams worked in the shadows for over two decades in New England but is prominently featured in this episode. He is excellent. Adams talks about the media members critical of the decision to bench Drew Bledsoe.

“The scribes. A lot of people that don’t have a clue what they’re talking about frankly. But there are some experts in New England on football, and they all work for the coaching staff of the Patriots.”

Drew Bledsoe’s career taking hard hits is shown in a compilation of clips. Adams explains that after getting hit that hard for that long, Bledsoe began to freeze up under pressure, preparing himself to be hit. And this was before the hit that cost him his starting job and potentially a lot more.

Cut to Scott Pioli, who tells a story of Ernie Adams calling Pioli into a room to look at a video he is watching. Pioli does a perfect impersonation of Adams. He relives the moment, playing the role of Adams showing him something on the video.

“Drew. He looks like a wildebeest under attack.”

Unlike when Belichick, Pioli, and company opted to move on from Bernie Kosar in Cleveland, this time they had an answer. His name was Tom Brady.

The Perfectionist Finds a Match

Brady’s family discusses what he was like growing up. How Brady was a competitor and perfectionist. How he had a drive to always improve. He worked hard. He wanted to be great. In Bill Belichick, Tom Brady found a bit of a football soulmate.

Bill Belichick explains how those traits that stood out to Brady’s family while he was growing up continued into his NFL career.

“Tom (Brady) I feel got the best out of me. Because he was so well prepared I felt like I had to keep up with his preparation,” reasoned Belichick. “I loved working with Tom every day. Seeing the game through the quarterback’s eyes and seeing what he saw. I think those are things that made me a better coach.”

Tom Brady explained that he and Belichick were ‘football junkies’ happy to talk football all day long.

“Coach Belichick taught me so much. I could not be the player I was without him.”

The Patriots Won Six Straight

Following that loss to the St. Louis Rams, New England still had six regular season games to play. The team won them all.

Despite becoming the Patriots starting quarterback, Tom Brady made sure to remain “just one of the guys” something his teammates appreciated. Brady befriended the offensive linemen, drinking and partying with his teammates.

But Brady was far from coddled. And it wasn’t his coach that was letting him hear about his mistakes, it was the New England Patriots defense. That group had some of the best trash-talkers in the NFL and they let Brady hear about it regularly in practice. Willie McGinest, Ty Law, and Mike Vrabel all gave Brady an earful after each mistake they took advantage of in practice. While this may have broken a more mentally weak young quarterback, Tom Brady seemed to use it as motivation to improve.

Placekicker Adam Vinatieri talked about how Brady brought the rest of the team along with him as his star continued to rise. As Vinatieri explained, it was not Brady’s team, Belichick’s team, or Kraft’s team (other than literally), “It was our team,” proclaimed Vinatieri.

Closing Out Foxboro Stadium

Kraft talked about being a fan of the New England Patriots before buying them. During that time, the Patriots hosted one playoff game, winning zero. But in the final game ever at their old home, the Patriots played host to the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.

On Jan. 19, 2002, the “Snow Bowl” was played. It hadn’t snowed all season, but with the team coming in from California and a trip to the AFC Championship at stake, snow fell hard.

“Weather gods just dialed it up for us right over the field,” declared Ernie Adams.

Oakland bold and brash, as Al Davis’ squads often were. One player stated before the game that New England wished for snow but, “They didn’t wish for the Raiders.” During the game a lineman taunted Patriots fans, giggling, “Not today.”

New England’s offense could not do anything. By the time there was 12:29 to play in regulation, the Patriots were trailing 13-3, without much hope of moving the football. Others may have been ready to throw in the towel, but not Bill Belichick. Brady explained.

“Coach came over and was like ‘C’mon guys, we’ve still got a shot at this.'”

The offense switched to no-huddle, up-tempo and it paid dividends. On the ensuing drive, Brady completed all nine passes. He finished it off with a six-yard touchdown run. Brady fell to the ground while spiking the ball, doing a somersault of sorts. The crowd went crazy.

The teams then traded punts (not shown) and the Patriots got the ball back, down 13-10, with 2:09 to play. On the third play of the drive cornerback Charles Woodson, Brady’s former Michigan teammate, sacked him and stripped the ball loose in the process. Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert landed on the loose ball for the fumble recovery. He got up and punted the ball in celebration (no flag).

“I couldn’t believe I fumbled the ball to lose the game,” Brady said.

The Tuck Rule

Broadcaster Greg Gumbel explained that referee Walt Coleman was checking the replay because there were less than two minutes to play in the game. The replay was shown on the CBS broadcast of the game as well.

“No doubt, that is a fumble,” exclaimed analyst Phil Simms.

“We basically thought we lost,” admitted Robert Kraft. Fans were so sure in fact, that his son Josh Kraft left the game following the play, only to call his father to find out what was happening from the parking lot when he heard an eruption from the crowd.

Walt Coleman made the correct call, despite explaining it poorly from the field. Due to the “Tuck Rule,” the play was ruled incomplete and the New England Patriots retained control.

“It felt like a fumble to me, and it looked like a fumble to basically everyone else, except that’s not the way the rule was written,” explained Brady. “So…we didn’t write the f*cking rule!”

Adam Vinatieri would finish off the drive by drilling a 45-yard field goal with almost no footing and no visibility. Bill Belichick didn’t even know it had been successful until Ernie Adams told him over the headset. Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime and the Patriots were headed to the AFC Championship.

Bill Belichick congratulated his team in the celebratory locker room. He handed the game ball to Robert Kraft while stating, “It all starts at the top.”

AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh

The episode ends as the Patriots prepare to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh for a chance to go to Super Bowl 36. Pittsburgh was the top seed in the AFC. They boasted a 14-3 record, including playoffs, and were 8-1 at home.

Greg Gumbel opened the broadcast by saying, “Welcome to Pittsburgh. The Patriots do provide a formidable challenge…” as though trying to convince the audience not to turn the game off before it even began.

A clip is then shown of Tom Brady being tackled and grabbing his leg.

“Oh boy,” Gil Santos, the radio voice of the New England Patriots is heard saying. “The Patriots quarterback is down and he’s injured.”

And with that, the episode comes to an end.

Episode 2 Review: 9/10

Great episode with fun highlights. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick expressing mutual admiration was fantastic (note: this is not likely to last throughout the series but for now it was extremely enjoyable). Remembering Brady as a regular guy who drank alcohol, fell over himself while celebrating, and still stayed cool enough to lead his team to playoff success was great stuff.

Highlight of the episode, aside from Ernie Adams, was the defense in practice. Those Patriots’ defenses had great players and great characters. Later in Brady’s career, his teammates might have been in awe or even intimidated by him. That was not the case in 2001.

Other fun memories: Hearing Gil Santos on the call, seeing Bill Belichick be cordial with a sideline reporter before a playoff game. and watching blasts from the past (Patrick Pass, Larry Izzo, David Patten, J.R. Redmond, etc).

As mentioned in the last review, not every bit of minutiae can be covered. However, a couple of obvious misses from the “Snow Ball” stood out.

On the Tuck Rule call the docuseries left the impression nobody knew the rule other than Walt Coleman. This is not true. Belichick certainly knew it. He’d later reference the play where he’d seen it before (a Vinny Testaverde fumble) Furthermore, Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s timeout to ‘ice’ Adam Vinatieri (not mentioned) backfired tremendously. It allowed the Patriots players to clear a spot for Vinatieri to kick from.

Finally, the episode made it seem like Brady scored, and then the fumble/incompletion happened two plays later. But each team punted once before the Raiders got the ball with a chance to run out the clock. New England’s defense stopped a first down. Tedy Bruschi made a fantastic tackle to force a punt. The defensive effort was largely ignored, as was Brady going 7-for-7 passing in overtime.

With that said it was another excellent episode of “The Dynasty.” Already looking forward to seeing how the New England Patriots deal with this injury to Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers.