Mo Lewis, Drew Bledsoe
Mo Lewis, Drew Bledsoe, NY Jets, NE Patriots, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

It’s been 20 years since Mo Lewis hit Drew Bledsoe, paving the way for Tom Brady

Perhaps no day has cemented the New York Jets‘ modern fortunes—or lack thereof—more than Sept. 23, 2001. On a humid afternoon, a Gang Green victory over a divisional rival somehow spawned one of the darkest days in franchise history.

This Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of Tom Brady‘s unofficial takeover of the NFL and American pop culture as a whole: the seven-time Super Bowl champion and holder of innumerable NFL records saw his first meaningful professional snaps in the final stages of the New England Patriots’ 10-3 loss to the Jets.

Brady entered the game in relief of New England staple Drew Bledsoe after the latter was forced to leave due to internal bleeding after he was the victim of a legal hit from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.

At the time, Brady was an unheralded sixth-round pick in the midst of his second NFL season. He was serving as Bledsoe’s backup, having beaten out tenured veterans Michael Bishop and John Friesz for the role in the prior year.

Prior to that fateful Sunday, Brady’s only regular-season NFL action was a trio of garbage time throws during the final stages of a one-sided loss in Detroit during the previous November.

Brady wound up completing 5-of-10 passes for 46 yards, but his attempts at an equalizer fell 29 yards short of completion. Supported by four takeaways (including Bledsoe interceptions to James Farrior and Aaron Glenn) and a Curtis Martin scoring run in the third quarter, the Jets took home the narrow decision in the NFL’s return from a week-long absence out of respect to those affected by the tragic events of Sept. 11.

Little more needs to be said about what happened next: Brady took over at quarterback for the rest of the season and guided the Patriots to the first of six Super Bowl titles. He would hold the Patriots’ franchise quarterback role for the next 19 seasons before he moved on to Tampa Bay—where he promptly delivered another title last year.

Brady owns a 30-8 record as a starter against the Jets in that span, a ledger that started with a 17-16 decision in the 2001 rematch in December at Giants Stadium. His new gang of defending champions visits East Rutherford in the penultimate week of the 2021-22 season.

Many took to social media to reflect on the crucial contest, with some facetiously blaming Lewis and the Jets for unleashing Brady onto an unsuspecting football public.

Despite his inadvertent role in kickstarting the New England dynasty, Lewis remains a well-respected name in Jets lore. Chosen in the third round of the 1991 NFL draft, the Georgia alum played all 13 seasons of his NFL career in New York.

He retired in 2003 as one of two defenders (the other being Kyle Clifton) to tally at least 1,000 tackles in green and one of three (along with Erik McMillan and Otis Smith) to earn four defensive touchdowns. His 52.5 sacks rank seventh in franchise history and he’s the all-time leader in forced fumbles.

Bledsoe had been New England’s primary quarterback since the Patriots made him the top choice in the 1993 draft. He had signed a then-record $103 million contract in the preceding offseason that was poised to continue his reign in New England’s backfield for the ensuing decade.

Though Bledsoe did not see the field in the Patriots’ upset Super Bowl victory over the Rams, he gave the team one more lasting memory by respectably filling for an injured Brady in the AFC Champion Game in Pittsburgh. Bledsoe would play five more NFL seasons in Buffalo (2002-04) and Dallas (2005-06).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email:
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2 years ago

Missed in all of this is the fact that Drew Bledsoe almost died due to the injury caused by the hit. Bledsoe wasn’t concussed, he was bleeding a pint of blood an hour internally. Bledsoe was also hit by Shaun Ellis.