Sure, Tom Brady emerged as one of the league’s top young quarterbacks.
Yes, Troy Brown’s versatility led the Patriots on all three sides of the ball.
And Coach Bill Belichick’s leadership put players in the right position to succeed.
But without Ty Law, we might not be sitting here talking about the New England Patriots dynasty of the early 2000s.
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Law established himself as a leader in the New England defense, earning a pair of All-Pro nominations. He is best known for his big-time playoff performances, helping the Patriots shut down high-powered offenses like the 2001 St. Louis Rams and the 2003 Indianapolis Colts.
One of just fourteen players to return a Tom Brady interception for a touchdown, Law was a driving force behind the Patriots dynasty.
Law & Order
Law was picked 23rd overall in the 1995 NFL Draft and immediately began making an impact in the Patriots’ secondary. He and defensive back Lawyer Milloy made up the appropriately-named ‘Law Firm’ for the Patriots. By 1996, Law had made it to his first Super Bowl and started in a loss against Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers.
Throughout the late 90s, Law established himself as one of the league’s best shut-down corners. He led the NFL in interceptions in 1998 with nine picks. Though his production dropped off over the next two seasons, Law made it difficult for opponents to get things going in the air against the Patriots.
In 2001, when the Patriots lost their starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Law led the Patriots and scored a career-high two defensive touchdowns. He had interceptions returns against the Colts and the Panthers. And in a home victory over Buffalo, Law had a pick and his only sack of the season.
Big Game Performer
Law set the tone for the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI with his pick-6 of Kurt Warner in the second quarter to put New England ahead. That entire 2001 postseason, Law was a force. He had 12 tackles (10 solo) in a Divisional Round victory over the Raiders that propelled the Patriots into the AFC title game.
Against the Steelers, Law made seven tackles and had one pass defended. He delivered a key block on special teams which allowed Troy Brown to get free for a punt return touchdown, as well.
Two years later when the Patriots returned to the AFC Championship game, Law had three interceptions against Peyton Manning and the Colts. His performance in coverage allowed the Patriots to earn a narrow victory at home.
Law was a workhorse for the Patriots and consistently made a big play when New England needed one.
A game that best describes Law’s career came in the 2003 regular season. The 2-2 Patriots hosted the 3-1 Titans in a game that started New England’s record 21-game winning streak.
At the time, it was unsure which direction New England was headed after a 20-17 loss at Washington a week earlier. Playing with a severely sprained ankle, Law made five tackles and had two passes defended.
His biggest play came late in the fourth quarter with the Titans threatening to take the lead. Law intercepted a Steve McNair pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown, limping into the endzone as mascot Pat Patriot came running out for a high-five.
That’s who Ty Law was. A team-first player who helped define a generation for what has become the NFL’s most successful franchise.