Congratulations to Troy Brown for making the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Not that anyone's surprised by the announcement. Brown's the epitome of everything the Patriots HOF stands for. But now that it's official, the least I can do is take one post to say thank you.
So, in honor of Brown's impending induction, I asked myself: What's your favorite play of Troy Brown's career? And obviously a ton of great options came flowing through my mind.
There was the catch on the last drive of Super Bowl XXXVI that helped set up Varitek's game-winner. There was the blocked field goal a week earlier in the AFC championship against the Steelers. There was the forced fumbled in San Diego to extend the 2006 season (this footage is bad, but the reactions are priceless). There was the overtime bomb on the road against the Dolphins in 2003. For some reason, I also thought about his 68-yard punt return against the 1-15 Panthers in the last game of the 2001 season.
But for all the greatness and memories that Troy Brown delivered over his 15 years in New England, nothing (for me) will ever match a play from very early in his career.
It was December 21, 1996. Week 17. The Patriots stood at 10-5 and had already clinched a playoff berth, but needed a victory over the 6-9 Giants to earn a first round bye and second round home game. Adding to the drama, this was also Bill Parcells first time coaching against the Giants since leaving in 1991 can you imagine the NFL taking so long to schedule that rematch these days?
Anyway, things got off to an awful start, when Drew Bledsoe was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the Pats first possession (sound diarrheaingly familiar?) and New England went into halftime trailing 22-0.
In the third quarter, an Adam Vinatieri field goal made it 22-3. In the fourth, a Terry Glenn touchdown catch made it 22-10 and Dave Meggett's punt return cut the Giants lead to 22-17.
That was the score with less than four minutes left, when the Pats were faced with a 3rd and 13 at the Giants 43. Then, this happened:
I was sitting at the kitchen table of my parents old house, and remember thinking this was one of the greatest catches I'd ever seen. And at that point, Brown, who was relatively unknown, immediately became one of my favorite Patriots. I bought his jersey the next season and wore it to every game I went to for more than a decade including all three Super Bowl wins. (The jersey was retired after the loss in Arizona).
As for that Giants game, after Brown extended the action, Bledsoe continued to drive the Pats downfield, and with 1:32 left, they faced a fourth and 7 on the 14 yard-line.
Ahhh, Bledsoe to Coates. The Pats held on for the win, earned a first round bye, (thanks to the Broncos) TWO home playoff games, and moved on to their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.
They lost, but without Brown's catch you have to wonder if that Super Bowl would have ever happened. Without Troy Brown you have to wonder if any of this would have happened.
He was a lifetime Patriot. A legendary Patriot. And it's hard to imagine anyone more deserving of a spot in the Patriots Hall of Fame.
So, congrats again, Troy. And thanks for everything.