Patriots

Sports Q: Who is the most underrated player from the Patriots’ first Super Bowl winning team?

David Patten was an important and often unheralded piece.

David Patten holds up the ball going into the end zone. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

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Who is the most underrated player from the Patriots’ first Super Bowl winning team? David Patten and Otis Smith deserve more appreciation than they get. – Dan K.

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This question, as you probably figured, derived from the sad news that Patten, a dependable receiver and member of the Three-Ring Club from the first half of the Patriots dynasty, has died at age 47 from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.

If the details are starting to fade or if you’re too young to have seen the 2001 Patriots play, let’s just say that roster was full of unheralded players who came through time and again in big moments. I agree that Otis Smith was overlooked. I’d put Terrell Buckley there too for defensive backs. Antowain Smith, Marc Edwards, Bobby Hamilton, Anthony Pleasant, J.R. Redmond, the all-around outstanding linebacker Roman Phifer … there are so many, and while Patriots fans appreciate them, national acclaim was fleeting if they ever got it at all.

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Patten is right there at the front of the list, though. He had a fine ’01 season statistically, with 51 catches for 749 yards and 4 touchdowns. In a pivotal early rout against the Colts, he passed, caught and ran for a touchdown. Weeks later against the Bills, he managed to stay in possession of the ball despite being knocked unconscious on a winning drive.

But he was at his best in the postseason. He had eight catches for 107 yards in the Snow Bowl, caught Drew Bledsoe’s TD pass in the AFC title game against the Steelers, and Tom Brady’s lone TD pass in Super Bowl XXXVI.

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Patten’s contributions to those early championship seasons weren’t limited to ’01. He was the second-leading receiver on the ’04 Super Bowl champs, trailing only David Givens in catches and yards. That Deion Branch/Givens/Patten/Troy Brown receiving group was so reliable.

David Patten was an important and often unheralded piece of the foundation the dynasty was built on, and a nice guy too. May he rest in peace.

What does everyone else think? Who were the most unheralded members of the Patriots’ first championship team? I’ll hear you in the comments.

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