This article is part of our NFL Reactions series.
It was Sept. 23, 2001. The clock read 5:03 left in the fourth quarter. The Patriots were down by seven in a divisional showdown against the Jets. It's 3rd-and-10, the ball is snapped, and the play breaks down. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe scrambled to the sideline to reach for a first down and …
Well, the NFL was never the same.
In that moment, Bledsoe suffered an incredibly vicious hit by linebacker Mo Lewis — a hit that would've most definitely drawn a flag in 2021. Bledsoe was forced from the contest, and just like that, New England had to turn to a sixth-round draft pick by the name of Tom Brady.
The rest is history.
With Brady making his return to the place where it all started Sunday, one must wonder: could history be repeating itself? It's hard not to draw parallels to something happening on the opposite coast. During the first half of Sunday's loss to the Seahawks, 49ers' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo exited the contest with a calf injury. San Francisco had to turn to its third overall draft pick by the name of Trey Lance.
The rest remains to be seen.
That said, Trey Lance stepped in and gave the 49ers a spark. Lance threw two touchdowns to Deebo Samuel, one of which was a 76-yard connection on a busted coverage. The rookie also added seven rushes for 41 yards. It wasn't an all-time performance for the ages, but it was promising display of what