The 2001 New England Patriots season was the 32nd season for the team in the National Football League and 42nd season overall. They finished with an 11–5 record and a division title before advancing to and winning Super Bowl XXXVI. Coming off a fifth-place finish in head coach Bill Belichick's first season in 2000, the Patriots were not expected to fare much better in 2001. In the second game of the season, nine-year starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who received a 10-year contract extension in March 2001, was injured on a hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, causing backup Tom Brady, a sixth-round draft pick in 2000, to enter the game. The Patriots lost the game to fall to 0–2, but Brady started the final 14 games of the season and compiled an 11–3 record as a starter, helping the Patriots clinch the 2nd seed in the AFC playoffs and a first round bye. As a result, the Patriots became only the 2nd team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl after starting the season 2–3, behind the 1980 Oakland Raiders. With the second seed in the AFC playoffs, the Patriots faced the Oakland Raiders at home following a first-round bye in the final game at Foxboro Stadium; in a snowstorm, a Patriots drive late in the fourth quarter was kept alive in an application of the now-famous tuck rule that was used in overturning a Brady fumble into an incomplete pass. Shortly after, a 45-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal through the snow, considered one of the most clutch field goals in NFL history, sent the game into overtime, when another Vinatieri field goal won it. After defeating the top-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots faced the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, known as "The Greatest Show on Turf," in Super Bowl XXXVI. Once again, Vinatieri kicked a game-winning field goal; the 48-yard kick sailed through the uprights as time expired, and gave the Patriots their first ever Super Bowl victory in what has been considered by many to be a "cinderella" season.
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