Hiring Belichick, then the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets, didn't pay immediate dividends for the Patriots, who went 5-11 in 2000. Of course, that's the only losing season Belichick has had with New England, which went on to win three Super Bowls the next four seasons.
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The Terrell Owens circus begins in earnest
Owens was suspended for a week and fined $24,000 for dancing on the Dallas Cowboys midfield star logo after a touchdown reception in September 2000. It was the first of many irritating moments by Owens, who would go on to wear out his welcome in three cities -- San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas -- and may yet do the same in Buffalo, which signed him for the 2009 campaign.
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Drew Bledsoe gets hurt
After Jets linebacker Mo Lewis injured Drew Bledsoe during Week 2 of the 2001 season, the Patriots turned to a sixth-round pick, Tom Brady. The rest, as they say, is history.
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The Tuck Rule Game
The outcome of the 2001 AFC Championship Game, and subsequently Super Bowl XXXVI, was infamously affected when referee Walt Coleman cited an obscure rule to overturn a Tom Brady fumble.
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Raiders lose Super Bowl XXXVII
If it wasn't bad enough getting stomped 48-21 by a Buccaneers team coached by their former leader Jon Gruden, the Raiders went spiraling out of control after that January 2003 game. Since that loss, they've had six straight losing seasons ... and counting?
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AdamVinatieri's Super Bowl-winning field goals
Vinatieri earned the nickname Automatic Adam after two of his field goals clinched the Patriots first and second Super Bowl championships. In Super Bowl XXXVI, he kicked a 48-yard field goal on the final play to give the Patriots a 20-17 win over the Rams. Two years later, Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left in Super Bowl XXXVIII to beat the Panthers, 32-29.
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Ben Roethlisberger catches Nick Harper from behind
The Steelers had a 21-18 lead over the Colts in the 2005 AFC divisional playoffs and were on the verge of wrapping up the game. Then Pittsburgh back Jerome Bettis fumbled at the goal line and Indy cornerback Nick Harper swooped it up and appeared to be heading to the end zone. Big Ben (bottom) tripped him up and the Colts eventually settled for a field-goal attempt that Mike Vanderjagt missed. The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL.
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Mike Holmgren takes Seahawks to the Super Bowl
Holmgren becomes the fifth coach to lead two franchises to the Super Bowl, joining Don Shula, Dick Vermeil, Bill Parcells and Dan Reeves. Following the 21-10 loss to Pittsburgh, Holgren said of the officiating, ''It's probably the thing that eventually, it makes you think about doing something else. ...''I wouldn't say we got 'jobbed, but it had a huge impact on the game.''
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LaDainian Tomlinson's record-setting season
In 2006, Tomlinson had one of the best seasons ever by a running back. He set a new NFL record for TDs in a season (31) and broke Paul Hornung's 46-year-old record for points in a season with 186. Tomlinson finished the season with 2,323 yards from scrimmage, earning 44 of 50 first-place votes to run away with the NFL AP Most Valuable Player Award.
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Saints playoff run the season after Hurricane Katrina
After Hurricane Katrina displaced the Saints during the 2005 season, the team returned to New Orleans and the Superdome in 2006 behind an impassioned fan base eager to rally around them. The Saints responded by having the best season in franchise history, winning 10 games (a seven-win turnaround from '05) and advancing to the NFC Championship Game.
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Peyton Manning, Colts finally get over Patriots hump
The Patriots had owned the Colts in the postseason and jumped to a 21-3 lead in the 2007 AFC Championship Game at the RCA Dome. But Peyton Manning led the Colts back from the largest deficit in conference championship game history to a 38-34 victory that gave the franchise its first Super Bowl berth since the 1970 season. The Colts then defeated the Bears 29-17 to win the championship.
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Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith make history at Super Bowl XLI
Good friends Dungy and Smith made history together as the first Black coaches in the Super Bowl. Their ascendence marked a decade of progress for the NFL, which instituted the "Rooney Rule" to ensure teams offer interviews to worthy minority candidates for head coaching jobs. Dungy's Colts won the game 29-17, but both coaches were extremely proud of their achievement.
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Michael Vick dogfighting scandal
Throughout the spring of 2007 the incredible story of Michael Vick's role in a dogfighting ring came to public light. The Falcons quarterback was identified as a key figure in the illegal venture and convicted of both federal and state charges. PETA and other animal rights activists bombarded the media and the league with negative sentiment about Vick. He served 19 months in prison and is currently in home confinement, waiting to hear if he'll be suspended by the NFL.
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The Patriots were caught illegally videotaping the Jets' offensive signals during a Week 1 matchup in the Meadowlands. The Jets confiscated the tape and handed it to the NFL, which subsequently fined the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick, and confiscated a 2008 first-round pick. Despite the controversy, New England went on to have the first ever 16-0 regular season.
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Tony Romo goes to Cabo with Jessica Simpson
The Cowboys finished the 2007 regular season at 13-3 to win the NFC East and earn a first-round bye. That gave Dallas quarterback Tony Romo enough time to jet to Los Cabos, Mexico, with Simpson for a romantic getaway. Romo then struggled in the divisional playoff round against the Giants, which the Cowboys lost 21-17. Cynics blamed Simpson for Romo's woes.
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Brett Favre's shaky future
Against the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship Game, Brett Favre struggled in subzero temperatures, throwing an interception in overtime that set up a game-winning field goal for New York. Favre had a great regular season but appeared to run out of gas toward the end. An exhausted Favre announced his retirement on March 4, 2008. Then in July, he got the bug to play again. But the Packers decided they wanted to move on and traded Favre to the Jets in August.
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David Tyree's catch
The Giants were trailing the Patriots 14-10 in Super Bowl XLII and facing a big third down near midfield. Eli Manning went back to pass and was nearly sacked, but eluded the grasp of the Giants defender and lofted a pass 32 yards downfield. With New England's Rodney Harrison draped all over him, Tyree came down with the ball, trapping it against his helmet. The Giants went on to a 17-14 victory.
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Manning brothers win back-to-back Super Bowls
Until the 2006 postseason, Peyton Manning hadn't been able to shake off his reputation as a playoffs choker. But he led the Colts past the rival Patriots in the AFC and to a Super Bowl win over the Bears. His little brother, Eli, took even more abuse in the rough-and-tumble New York media market. But Eli proved all his doubters wrong by leading the Giants to a title. The back-to-back wins cemented the Manning family as NFL royalty.
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Bernard Pollard knocks out Tom Brady
The 2008 Patriots were coming off the franchise's 16-0 regular season in 2007 and hungry to avenge their Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Then the roof caved in when the Chiefs' Bernard Pollard tried to tackle Tom Brady by the leg midway through the first quarter of their Week 1 game. Brady suffered a serious knee injury and was out for the season. The Pats turned to backup Matt Cassel, finished 11-5 and didn't reach the playoffs.
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Dolphins use Wildcat en route to winning the AFC East
The Dolphins were heavy underdogs against the Tom Brady-less Patriots, but shocked them after unfurling the Wildcat attack with running back Ronnie Brown. Brown ran for three touchdowns and threw one more on direct snaps in the 38-13 victory. The new offensive wrinkle quickly swept across the league in 2008 and is expected to be used even more in '09.
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Santonio Holmes catch
With 35 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLIII, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lofted a pass over two Cardinals defenders to Holmes in the corner of the end zone. Holmes reached for the ball and miraculously managed to keep two feet down. The touchdown gave the Steelers a 27-23 win and their sixth Super Bowl victory. Holmes, who had nine catches for 131 yards, was named the Super Bowl MVP.
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