Belichick 20/20: Patriots make iconic goal line stand against 2003 Colts

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Patriots' most famous play at the goal line happened because Pete Carroll's Seahawks decided not to run the ball. But the most famous series at the goal line involves a team that did run the ball - and get stuffed by Bill Belichick's defense.

New England's 2003 season ranks as among the most successful in franchise history, marking the team's second of six Super Bowl wins since 2001. The 2003 squad will go down in history mainly as the defense that stymied Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts for the first of two straight championship seasons.

Nothing embodied the Patriots' defensive triumph over the high-powered Colts offense more than their now-iconic goal line stand on Nov. 30, 2003, which took place on the Colts' own field. The fact that it meant the difference between winning and near-certain defeat - and helped the Pats play throughout the AFC playoffs in Foxboro en route to a Super Bowl title - makes it that much more historic.

Watch the full goal line stand starting at the 3:03:29 in the above video, with the final fourth-down stop coming at 3:05:49.

Down 38-34 with 2:57 left in regulation, Manning led the Colts all the way down to the Patriots' 2-yard line, with help from Edgerrin James on the ground. With the end zone right in his sights, James got to the 1-yard line on first down while Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel wrapped up his feet to prevent the touchdown. Ted Washington, Bruschi, and Rodney Harrison combined to stuff James on second down for no gain, which set up an interesting third down. This was Manning's chance to make the game-winning play, but he lofted it over and through the end zone as Tyrone Poole blanketed receiver Aaron Moorehead.

Edgerrin James of the Indianapolis Colts is stopped near the goal line during the final minute of the game against the New England Partiots on November 30, 2003 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Edgerrin James of the Indianapolis Colts is stopped near the goal line during the final minute of the game against the New England Partiots on November 30, 2003 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Then, the biggest play of all: on fourth-and-goal, Willie McGinest blew by everyone while unblocked on the right edge and snagged James to tackle him for a one-yard loss. Washington also helped by simply pushing forward and getting his body in James' way as he toppled to the turf. But the stand was complete: Patriots' ball, Patriots win. And so went a key milestone along the Patriots' quest toward the championship that season.

Credit for the eventual goal line stand is also due to Asante Samuel, who set it up in the first place when he dragged James down at the 2 as the running back looked to be barreling into the end zone. The Patriots' dynasty has now lasted so long that there are a lot of younger fans who weren't even alive or old enough to appreciate the goal line stand.

Fans of all ages should go ahead and relive the moment, which you can in the below podcast with classic calls of the game from Gil Santos and 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 [email protected].