By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Perhaps the most misleading play-by-play listing in NFL history reads as such on Pro Football Reference:
“Ken Walter for no gain. Ken Walter fumbles, safety”
Those who watched the Patriots’ 30-26 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football on Nov. 3, 2003 know that former punter Ken Walter didn’t make a mistake at all. In fact, he let long snapper Lonie Paxton whip the football back through the end zone on purpose. Bill Belichick’s play-call for the intentional safety proved to spur the Patriots to victory that night and has lived on as one of his greatest coaching masterstrokes.
The Patriots trailed the Broncos 24-23 at the time they decided to punt from their own 1-yard line – or so it appeared. Instead of risking the Broncos starting around midfield with under three minutes left in regulation, they took the safety and gave the Broncos two more points on purpose so they could kick off from the 20-yard line instead.
Walter then free-kicked it over the heads of everyone on the Broncos for 64 yards, pinning Denver back at their own 15. Just five plays and four gained yards later, the Patriots were getting the ball back at their own 42.
From there, Tom Brady led one of his many game-winning drives throughout his career. Brady went 4-for-5 for all 58 necessary yards, hitting receiver David Givens for the eventual game-winning touchdown. An Asante Samuel interception of Broncos QB Danny Kanell sealed the 30-26 victory.
Belichick often makes play-calling and coaching decisions that make you scratch your head in the moment. They don’t always work out, but sometimes he looks like a genius. This is way up there on the list of decisions that made him look like a genius.
You can re-live the game, No. 10 on the Belichick 20/20 countdown, via NFL Films here. Listen below for classic calls from the game by the late Gil Santos and former Patriots color commentator Gino Cappelletti.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.