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Review: “The Dynasty” Episode 3 – Borrowed Time

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New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law (24) intercepts a pass from St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner as intended receiver Isaac Bruce (80) looks on during Super Bowl XXXVI, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2002, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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 already knows the outcomes of the actual events.

The third episode of “The Dynasty” starts where the second episode leaves off, with Tom Brady being injured in the 2001 AFC Championship Game. But before diving into the game and the

2001 AFC Champions

Tom Brady goes down injured in the AFC Championship. New England is forced to bring Drew Bledsoe off the bench to replace him. It was like a Hollywood script, but slightly less believable. The franchise quarterback was thrust back into action with a trip to Super Bowl 36 on the line. Bledsoe found David Patten in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The Patriots went on to win the game 24-17 to advance to Super Bowl 36.

Bledsoe replacing Brady was unquestionably the main storyline from that game, which was one of the most epic games of the entire dynasty. But (and again not everything can be covered) a disservice was done to the Patriots’ special teams and defense. Troy Brown’s punt return touchdown is one of the most iconic plays in Patriots history. The special teams scored again in the second half when Brandon Mitchell blocked a Steelers field goal attempt. Antwan Harris scooped it up and took it 49 yards to the end zone.

One thing getting lost so far is the contributions of guys like Troy Brown, Antwan Harris, Brandon Mitchell, etc. It might not be as flashy and exciting as the other drama, but these Patriots were not about being flashy.

Buying the New England Patriots

Following the AFC Championship win they flashback to Robert Kraft purchasing the New England Patriots. Due to time constraints, this is not covered in nearly the same detail it was in Jeff Benedict’s book. But to summarize, Kraft bought the land, so he became the landlord for whoever would own the Patriots. This did not appeal to other potential buyers, paving the way for Kraft to purchase the team.

It flashed back to Bill Parcells, who was the coach of the Patriots when Kraft bought the team. Parcells played a pivotal part in New England reaching Super Bowl 31. He also was so unhappy with the owner being involved in decision-making that he had already decided to leave before the Super Bowl was ever played.

Kraft stated that Parcells was looking to do what was best for Bill Parcells. That was not what was always best for the franchise. For his part, Parcells believed people who didn’t know what they were doing were being put in positions of authority. He believed that was not best for the franchise.

(note: although it was not stated, putting Bill Belichick in charge of the organization did seem to solve both issues…he knew what he was doing, and his decisions, including leaving Drew Bledsoe on the bench, were made in what he believed to be the best interests of the franchise)

Super Bowl 36

There was controversy leading up to Super Bowl 36 about who would be New England’s starting quarterback, Bledsoe or Brady. Belichick chose Brady. Bledsoe was not thrilled. However, Bledsoe handled his disappointment with class. Ted Bruschi credits Drew Bledsoe’s handling of the situation as “the beginning of the Patriot Way,” doing what is best for the team.

Chris Berman called it “David vs. Goliath” with New England attempting to knock off St. Louis.

A chill-inducing moment of that magical 2001 season was the New England Patriots opting to be announced as a team in the Super Bowl. Everyone loves an underdog and the Patriots were certainly that. It was the aftermath of 9/11, the Patriots wore red, white, and blue, and they had a starting offensive lineman in Joe Andruzzi who was the brother of New York firefighters.

“We were America’s team,” remembered Willie McGinest.

The Patriots were not going to “out-skill” the Rams but could “out-tough” them. The strategy was to hit them hard and often. St. Louis coach Mike Martz remembered it as more of New England getting away with penalties.

“I’ve never said anything about it,” said Martz over 20 years later, knowing he would be accused of crying and being a sore loser. But he openly did just that here.

New England attempted to hold off a late surge by St. Louis, who tied the game. John Madden on the broadcast said the Patriots should be happy heading to overtime, but the Patriots had different ideas. Ernie Adams advised the defense was too gassed. Drew Bledsoe encouraged Tom Brady to sling it. The Patriots drove down on their final possession and set up a game-winning field goal attempt by Adam Vinatieri. It was good. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl.

“My Grandfather Can Die a Happy Man”

Tedy Bruschi recounted a story from the aftermath of the Super Bowl victory. A fan told Bruschi, “My grandfather can die a happy man.” This is a stark contrast to how future Patriots teams would be treated (as evidenced in this very episode). But at the time it was a miraculous win. It was the first championship in the 42-year history of the Patriots franchise.

The idea that one Super Bowl win could allow an aging Patriots fan to die a happy fan is a refreshing perspective to remember. New England is now in an era when they have won six Super Bowls in 23 seasons, yet most of the fans seem miserable due to a five-year drought. Fans have gotten spoiled, but it wasn’t always the way it is now.

Tom Brady, Superstar

Following the Super Bowl win, Tom Brady became a superstar. He had been named Super Bowl MVP (controversially if people are being honest) and was a Cinderella story that the world embraced. Suddenly the sixth-round pick from the 2000 NFL Draft was everywhere following the 2001 NFL season.

Brady was a guest on Late Show with David Letterman. He was hosting Saturday Night Live. Tom Brady was invited by President George W. Bush to the State of the Union address in 2002, watching on from the president’s box.

This is quite the juxtaposition to how Tom Brady’s head coach Bill Belichick had summed up the quarterback’s season the morning after their championship win.

“Tom, you had a pretty good year,” said Belichick.

They Also Won Two More Super Bowls…

Of the first three episodes, the first 2.8 were spent on Super Bowl 36, everything leading up to it, and the immediate aftermath of the victory. Hopefully, nobody took a quick bathroom break without hitting pause at this point.

The final 0.2 portion of Episode 3 covered everything from between the start of the 2002 season to the beginning of 2007. If this had been a period of relative nothingness that would have been a bit more understandable. However, this period featured two more New England Patriots Super Bowl wins. They were exciting teams winning exciting games.

Drew Bledsoe was traded to the Buffalo Bills, Lawyer Milloy was waived, and Rodney Harrison came to New England, among other major moves. ESPN’s Tom Brady claimed the New England Patriots players hated their coach. They set the record for the longest winning streak in NFL history. None of this was mentioned.

They won back-to-back Super Bowls and became a dynasty. If a viewer blinked they may have missed it. Glossing over such a large portion of the Patriots dynasty in a docuseries titled “The Dynasty” is inexcusable

Addiction to Success

Patriots executive Scott Pioli ends the episode talking about how all of this winning led to the franchise developing an addiction to winning. While a fan had indicated to Tedy Bruschi that their grandfather could die a happy man after winning one Super Bowl, the team was not satisfied even after winning three.

While the success had increased, the joy the success brought had not. It had become more relief than elation. And the team was driven more by a fear of losing than simply a desire to win. This helps explain why, as a fan during this run, the first time is always the best. It also serves as a foreshadowing for what is yet to come.

Episode 3 Review: 6/10

This grade might be generous. Unlike in this docuseries, however, the positives will be dwelt on here. The reviewer is a bit more positive than the producer.

The footage of Lawyer Milloy complaining about his hotel room and Bill Belichick offering to trade was great. The decision to play the audio broadcast of Gil Santos instead of that of Pat Summerall when the Patriots won Super Bowl 36 was wise. It was also fun to look back at a time when it felt amazing that U2’s The Edge even knew who played for the New England Patriots.

Ty Law was a highlight of the episode. One of the greatest and most colorful New England Patriots of all time (who got at least one vote for Super Bowl 36 Most Valuable Player) was great recalling his pick-six against the Rams and talking trash years later.

But it was disappointing the way the series virtually skips over five seasons, including two Super Bowl victories, to get from Super Bowl 36 to the start of the 2007 season. The important part of the actual New England Patriots dynasty is getting lost. It is not just controversies, debates, and scandals. It is championships, success, and terrific performances by underappreciated role players. Episode 3 leaves the viewer less confident that this series is coming from an unbiased perspective to showcase the greatest dynasty in the history of professional football.

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