Belichick 20/20: Drew Bledsoe replaces Tom Brady in 2001 AFC Championship Game win over Steelers

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

One of the Patriots' first great playoff wins under Bill Belichick had little to do with Tom Brady.

The Pats' 24-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2001 AFC Championship Game sent them to their third-ever Super Bowl, and it was one of Belichick's last wins as a true playoff underdog. The hoodie captured this one, though, through massive plays on special teams and a clutch performance by his ... backup quarterback.

This game under center is less defined by Brady and more by Drew Bledsoe, who entered the game late in the second quarter after No. 12 had to exit with an injury. It was Bledsoe from there on out, and that first drive is where the last Patriots QB before Brady made his mark on the dynasty.

Jan. 27, 2002: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots looks to throw a pass during the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Patriots won 24-17. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Jan. 27, 2002: Quarterback Drew Bledsoe of the New England Patriots looks to throw a pass during the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Patriots won 24-17. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Bledsoe took the field with 1:40 left in the first half and went 3-for-3 for 26 yards, hitting David Patten in the end zone to cap the Patriots' drive with a touchdown to put the Patriots up 14-3. The Patriots' other touchdowns came on a punt return by Troy Brown, then a blocked field goal attempt by Brandon Mitchell that Antwan Harris took to the house off a lateral from Brown.

Listen above as we take a look back at the Patriots' first AFC Championship win under Belichick as part of our season-long "Belichick 20/20" series, including calls from the game by the late Gil Santos. The Patriots take on the Steelers in the 2019 season opener on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, where they will raise their sixth Super Bowl championship banner in a ceremony starting around 8:08 p.m. ET. Kickoff is expected at 8:20.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].