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Sunday, September 25, 2011
Game day: The hit that changed football

By Rich Cimini

Friday was the 10-year anniversary of Mo Lewis’ epic hit on QB Drew Bledsoe, which changed the course of Patriots history – and maybe NFL history, too. From a Jets perspective, it wasn't a big story that day in Foxborough, where they won an ugly 10-3 game. The prevailing theme was the fallout from 9-11; it was the first game after the terrorist attacks.

Former Jets DE Shaun Ellis was chasing Bledsoe on the play, trying to strip the ball from behind, and I remember him telling me last year (in a joking way) that Tom Brady should pay him some money for that play. It was the play, of course, that opened the door for Brady, now one of his teammates in New England.

"You don't know, you just go out there and try to play the game of football," Ellis told ESPNBoston.com this week, discussing on the overall impact of the play. "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."

Here’s what I remember from that game:

Afterward, I remember seeing Bledsoe wheeled out of the Patriots’ locker room on a gurney, taken to a waiting ambulance. That's when we realized this wasn't just a routine injury. We didn't know it at the time, but he had a sheared blood vessel in his chest and could’ve died.

I also remember leaving the stadium late that night and telling some colleagues it was the last time we’d cover a game in that rat-trap of a venue, which was to be razed after the season. The Patriots were 0-2, they had no quarterback and the prospect of returning to cover a playoff game seemed remote.

Boy, was I wrong. The Patriots rallied behind Brady and I returned for the Patriots-Raiders playoff game – aka the “Tuck” game. That's another story.

• Discussing the Raiders this week, Rex Ryan mentioned his fondness for two of their rookies, RB Taiwan Jones, a speedster from Eastern Washington, and WR Denarious Moore, from Tennessee. Colleague Brian Costello of the New York Post did some checking, and came up with this interesting nugget. Jones was picked one spot ahead of RB Bilal Powell in the fourth round, and Moore was selected five spots ahead of WR Jeremy Kerley in the fifth.

Could it be the Jets had their eyes on Jones and Moore and settled for Powell and Kerley? The Jets traded up for Kerley, with GM Mike Tannenbaum saying at the time he was worried that there would be no WRs left because of a run at the position. Interesting.

• Never saw a wide receiver get so much praise for not complaining about no catches than Plaxico Burress did last week. It’ll be interesting to see if he can maintain his patience. Remember this: He has plenty of financial motivation to stay on his best behavior. He’ll be a free agent in 2012, looking for one last score.

• My take on the Dennis Thurman/Raiders situation from last offseason: Ryan’s refusal to let his DB coach interview for Oakland’s defensive-coordinator position last offseason was justified … IF he has plans to promote Thurman in the future. In other words, if coordinator Mike Pettine leaves for a head-coaching job, you’d like to think Ryan would elevate Thurman to that position. If Ryan doesn’t see Thurman as the Jets’ coordinator some day, he should’ve let him go to Oakland. Same deal for OL coach Bill Callahan, who wasn’t allowed to interview for the Titans’ coordinator job.

• Exotic stat of the day: QB Mark Sanchez is 12-0 as a college and pro starter in his home state of California -- 10-0 at USC, 2-0 with the Jets (wins at Oakland and San Diego).

• Biggest surprise on the Jets’ defense? I asked that question to Pettine, and he said nickel back Kyle Wilson. He hasn’t made any big plays, but he also hasn’t been burned.

• I'm with Boomer Esiason; I think the Cowboys are nuts for putting QB Tony Romo on the field -- if, in fact, he plays Monday night.

• Have to admit, I'm surprised by Cam Newton's early success in Carolina. I really thought he'd struggle.

• Here's a remarkable stat from Brady's incredible start: He has 88 pass attempts and not one has been dropped, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The Steelers and Vikings also have no drops, but they've attempted far fewer passes.