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Monday, January 28, 2002
Updated: January 29, 12:02 PM ET
Exactly how I Drew it up

By Bob Halloran
Special to Page 2

Vindication is mine! I have been absolved, exonerated and exculpated to the point where I can use big words in a redundant way.

Drew Bledsoe
Drew Bledsoe's numbers weren't great Sunday, but he managed the game brilliantly for the Pats. In other words, he was Bradyesque.
When Drew Bledsoe charged from the bench and hit on three consecutive throws to David Patten, the final one resulting in an 11-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead for the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, I proved that white men can jump if properly motivated, and let us not forget -- vindicated. Who knew the Tom Brady bandwagon would have a "BLEDSOE" vanity plate?

Regular readers of Page 2 might recall how I laid out in voluminous detail why Bledsoe should have been given his job back once he was healthy. I called him a future Hall of Famer, and people shook their heads at me as if to say: "What a shame to go so crazy at such a young age. Better take his shoelaces away from him."

But I wasn't crazy. The point then, as it is now, is that Tom Brady was being given far too much credit for the Patriots' success. "He barely contributes" is what I said. Then Brady was selected for the Pro Bowl, and won the Snow Bowl, and I was left with enough egg on my face to make an eyebrow omelet.

But I never intended to disparage Brady. He's a fine, young quarterback who did exactly what was asked of him. He just wasn't asked to do very much.

I liken Brady to a sneeze guard at the salad bar. It's functional, it serves a purpose, and seems like a great idea, but is it really necessary? I mean, how many people were walking up there unable to stop themselves from sneezing into the chickpeas? One day we, as a society, might discover we can get by without the sneeze guard. On Sunday, the Patriots and their fans realized they can get by without Brady.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady is a fine quarterback, but he's not the reason for New England's success.
Now, I'm not here to say I told you so, even though I did. And I'm not here to tell you Bledsoe is the better quarterback, even though he is. And I'm not here to tell you Bledsoe should start in the Super Bowl, even though he should. I'm just here to tell you that the Patriots went 11-3 with Tom Brady as their quarterback for exactly the same reasons that they won the AFC Championship Game with Drew Bledsoe as their quarterback. They are a team. A special team. Especially, their special teams.

Bledsoe didn't win that game for the Patriots on Sunday - though when he came in at the end of the first half, he accomplished in 42 seconds what Brady couldn't do in 29 minutes -- and that was to get the Patriots into the end zone. Without that totally clutch, no-rust performance the Patriots probably don't win that game.

But it wasn't Bledsoe anymore than it has been Brady. Bledsoe's numbers: 10-for-21 for 102 yards are not spectacular. What they are is Bradyesque. So clearly, the Patriots won because they scored two touchdowns on special teams, intercepted Kordell Stewart three times, and held the Steeler running backs to just 19 yards on 13 carries.

All that, combined with a quarterback who makes more big plays than big mistakes, is the kind of football the Patriots have played all year. Anybody who talks about the Patriots being a team of destiny is talking stupid!

That's a phrase people use when they can't explain why the Patriots, who don't look as good as other teams on paper, keep winning on the field. Destiny doesn't allow for credit. Destiny is all about being predetermined or inevitable regardless of a team's talent, persistence and hard work. The Patriots are not Destiny's Child. They are simply a great team with a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl. "You be sayin' 'No no no no no,' when it's really, 'Yes yes yes yes yes.' "

Drew Bledsoe
Remember, it was Bledsoe who took the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1997.
The Patriots can beat the Rams! And I think they would have beaten them in their mid-November meeting in Foxboro, if Brady had played well. The young gun finished with a typical 185-yard day, but with an atypical two interceptions. The first one gave the Rams the ball on the Patriots 18-yard line, and St. Louis scored a touchdown three plays later. Then, with the score 14-10 in the third quarter, the Patriots defense recovered a Kurt Warner fumble at the St. Louis 45-yard line. On the very next play, Brady was picked off by London Fletcher. The Patriots lost a very winnable game, 24-17.

This week the 103.5 million-dollar question will be: Who will start at quarterback for the Patriots? And the answer should be the same one it should have been two months ago: Drew Bledsoe.

Keep these things in mind. 1.) Of the first 14 offensive plays with Bledsoe in the game, 13 were pass plays. The Patriots put the ball in his hands and said go win it, and he did. And 2.) Steelers safety Lee Flowers, who knocked Brady out of the game said: "Nobody on our sideline was celebrating when Brady went out."

Opposing teams know what Bledsoe's about, and now so do the Patriots and their Bledsoe-bashing fans. Many of those fans, like coach Bill Belichick determined Brady is the better quarterback. Do they also believe that 80 percent of Brady is better than a three time Pro Bowler who has now led his team to the Super Bowl twice?

Bob Halloran is an anchorman for ESPNEWS.