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Remembering the hit that changed the future of the Patriots

09.23.11 at 1:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Shaun Ellis remembers where he was 10 years ago today when the fate of the Patriots was changed forever. He should since he was on the field trying to get to Drew Bledsoe before Mo Lewis got to him first on the sideline at the old Foxboro Stadium.

‘€œI was chasing him, we got to the sideline and I dove to try to knock the ball out,’€ said Ellis, then in his second year with the Jets. ‘€œI guess he reached back to get the ball and that’€™s when Mo Lewis hit him. I remember, you know if someone gets the wind knocked out of him, [but] I didn’€™t know the extent of the injury. I didn’€™t know until after the game.”

The Patriots were down 10-3 with just under six minutes left in regulation when Bledsoe was chased from the pocket by Ellis, who forced him to the near sideline. Lewis saw this and made a beeline right toward Bledsoe, who appeared to let up before the sideline. Then BOOM!

“You don’t know, you just go out there and try to play the game of football,” Ellis said. “A lot of things like that have happened in the past, where guys go down and the next guy steps in. The next thing you know he’s a Hall of Famer. That’s how it is.”

That Hall of Famer, of course, is Tom Brady. While the Patriots lost the game, 10-3, Brady rallied the troops thereafter, winning 11 of the next 14 to put the Patriots on their path to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

Ellis said he occasionally keeps in touch with Lewis, who now lives in Atlanta, but the two don’t often talk about the fateful hit.

How does Bill Belichick mark the anniversary that began his legacy as a future hall of fame coach?

“Obviously I’€™m aware of it and all but no, I don’€™t sit around and reflect on [it],” he said Friday. “I don’€™t have to write a column about it.”

Of course, Brady was victimized by a season-ending hit in the 2008 opener by Kansas City’s Bernard Pollard.

“It’€™s no different than any other backup quarterback going into that game,” Belichick said of Brady for Bledsoe in 2001. “He was the backup quarterback to start the season. He was the backup quarterback in that game.

“When you’€™re the backup quarterback you can go in after the first play like [Matt Cassel] did in ‘€™08. You can go in on one of the last plays of the game like Tom did in ‘€™01, or somewhere in between. You never know as a backup quarterback. You have to be ready to go from the first play to the last one ‘€“ in all situations. All the things that a backup quarterback does to prepare for that ‘€“ that’€™s what Tom did, that’€™s what Matt did, that’€™s what Doug Flutie did, that’€™s what Vinny [Vinny Testaverde] did, that’€™s what Brian Hoyer is doing right now.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Drew Bledsoe, Mo Lewis, New England Patriots
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