Revisiting Tom Brady’s First Start in the NFL: Defense and a Running Game

Tom Brady made his first career start in Week 3 of the 2001 season against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. How did the legendary QB perform?

Looking to get out of an early two-game losing skid during the 2001 season — and having to make a change at quarterback because of internal bleeding in Drew Bledsoe’s chest following a Week 2 hit — New England Patriots HC Bill Belichick turned to sixth-round QB Tom Brady.

Brady made his first career start in Week 3, facing off against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. How did the Patriots QB perform?

How Did Tom Brady Do in His First Career Start?

In front of an announced crowd of over 60,000 at Foxboro Stadium on a gorgeous afternoon in late September, a 24-year-old Brady — who was taken down on the very first play from scrimmage — orchestrated a touchdown-scoring drive on New England’s first offensive possession of the contest, taking an early 7-0 lead.

The Patriots’ first-half lead would balloon to as much as 20. But it was the ground game, not Brady’s arm, that led the way throughout.

MORE: When Was Tom Brady Drafted? The Start of the Patriots’ Dynasty

Out of 336 total yards of offense, 177 came from the running back duo of Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk — with Smith and Faulk also producing a combined three scores to lead the Patriots to a comfortable 44-13 victory.

Brady threw for just 168 yards on 23 pass attempts, completing 13 to seven different receivers.

New England’s defense forced Manning to throw three interceptions, two of which were returned for a touchdown.

Manning was under duress the entire afternoon, throwing 14 incompletions on 34 pass attempts as he faced a ton of blitz packages called by then-defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.

“You envision the things that are going to happen in a game, all the possibilities,” a smiling Brady said after the game.

“Never did I think it would be the runaway victory that it was.”

Manning and Brady would go on to create a storied rivalry that lasted for 15 seasons.

After the Patriots’ 31-point win, Belichick addressed members of the media, calling Brady “unfazed” despite a lack of experience.

Before the start of the game, players knew Brady was about to make his first career start and kept the same mindset in check.

“It was almost a must-win situation,” cornerback Ty Law said, who returned a Manning interception 23 yards for a touchdown.

Otis Smith, who had the other pick-six off Manning, said they know they “have a really good team.”

Brady, in the win, became the fourth quarterback to start a game for the Patriots since Bledsoe was taken No. 1 overall in the 1993 NFL Draft.

KEEP READING: Which Quarterbacks Were Drafted Ahead of Tom Brady?

The conclusion of the 2001 season saw Brady and the Patriots secure their first of six would-be Super Bowl rings.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles