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Patriots Celebrate 22nd Anniversary Of Hiring Bill Belichick, 20th Anniversary Of Winning AFC Championship In Pittsburgh

BOSTON (CBS) -- At the turn of the century, the New England Patriots franchise didn't have much to celebrate. That all changed 22 years ago to the day.

It was on Jan. 27, 2000, that the Patriots completed a complicated process of securing their top choice for their next head coach: Bill Belichick. Though it required an acrimonious and drawn-out process to extract Belichick from the Jets organization, the Patriots paid up and sent a first-round pick to their friends from New Jersey in order to get their guy.

It turns out, of course, that they got a steal.

Since taking the reins in 2000, Belichick has led the Patriots on the most successful two-decade run in NFL history.

The team has won six Super Bowls, nine conference championships, and 17 AFC East crowns since making that hire 22 years ago.

That rise took place quickly, too, as this day also  marks the 20th anniversary of the Patriots' first AFC championship win under Belichick. That game was a classic picture of the early dynasty days. The Patriots were 10-point underdogs, but their defense smothered Pittsburgh's MVP candidate -- yes, Kordell Stewart finished fourth in MVP voting that year, his lone Pro Bowl season -- and suffocated their most dangerous player in Jerome Bettis. (Bettis rushed for eight yards on nine carries.) The Patriots got two touchdowns from special teams -- one on a Troy Brown punt return, the other on a blocked field goal that featured a Brown lateral to Antwan Harris. (Brown caught eight passes for 121 yards, in addition to his special teams heroics.) And they got a touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe, who was thrust into action for the first time since absorbing the Mo Lewis hit on Sept. 23. (Tom Brady had been taken out by a low, dirty hit by Lee Flowers.)

The day ended with Patriots players waving their own versions of Terrible Towels and shouting that they would gladly take the Steelers' hotel reservations off their hands for the upcoming Super Bowl week in New Orleans, as Belichick no doubt used the Steelers' plans as motivation for his team to pull off the upset on the road.

Patriots celebrate 2001 AFC Championship Game
Otis Smith, Richard Seymour and Terrell Buckley celebrate the Patriots' AFC Championship Game win in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Patriots players dump water on head coach Bill Belichick
Patriots players dump water on head coach Bill Belichick after defeating the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 27, 2002. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The Patriots won their first Super Bowl a week later, kicking off a rather incredible stretch of success. That franchise turnaround began in earnest on Jan. 27, 2000.

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