With three Super Bowl wins in four years (2001-2004)-a feat equaled only by the Dallas Cowboys-the New England Patriots have established themselves as the first NFL dynasty of the 21st Century. In Week 2 of the 2001 season, Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe took a vicious blow from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, and the 2001 season seemed lost. But backup Tom Brady stepped in-and New England sports history was changed forever. By the time Bledsoe returned, Brady had compiled a 5-3 record as a starter, and head coach Bill Belichick stayed with him. That decision paid off in the final minutes of Super Bowl XXXVI, when Brady drove the Patriots 53 yards to set up the biggest kick of Adam Vinatieri's career - a 48-yarder for the title. Less than a week before the start of the 2003 season, Belichick made another risky decision, releasing Pro Bowl safety and team captain Lawyer Milloy. His replacement, Rodney Harrison, won respect with his aggressive play and was voted a defensive captain after only a few games. Harrison and linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest led a defense that allowed the fewest points in the league that season. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, Tom Brady out-gunned the Carolina Panthers, 32-29, and won his second Super Bowl MVP award in three years. Halloween, 2004, was a nightmare for New England: Ben Roethlisberger's Steelers ended the Patriots' NFL-record 21-game winning streak and dealt a season-ending injury to All-Pro cornerback Ty Law. More injuries followed as the season progressed, weakening a once-dominant defense-but New England played on with a patchwork secondary that included 33-year-old wide receiver Troy Brown at nickel back. After the Patriots won the rematch against Big Ben for the AFC Championship, all that stood between them and a third world title in four seasons was the most fearsome receiver in the game-Philadelphia's Terrell Owens, in Super Bowl XXXIX.
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