Like Michael Jordan did to numerous NBA teams and players during the 1990s, Tom Brady denied glory to several NFL teams and players during his 20-plus-year career. Ricky Williams, a former NFL rushing champion during his time with the Miami Dolphins, recently shared when Brady handed him the worst loss of his entire football career.
Williams recalled the 2002 Dolphins' Week 17 overtime loss to the Patriots as the game where Brady "broke my heart." Miami had defeated the Patriots earlier in the season behind Williams' 105 rushing yards and a defense that sacked Brady three times and intercepted him twice.
"I played against him a bunch of times. We beat him a couple times, he beat us a bunch of times," Williams said during a recent appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. "The one time that really broke my heart was my first year [with the Dolphins]. It even hurts to talk about it. My first year in Miami, and I feel like that team, we had the talent to go to the Super Bowl.
"The last game of the season, we have to beat the Patriots to get into the playoffs. I have 185 yards, and we were whooping them the whole game until a couple of minutes left in the fourth quarter, and we just implode. ... We had one of the best defenses in the NFL. We had the NFL sack leader, we had the NFL rushing leader, and we just blew it. Couple of minutes left in the season. Tom Brady."
Two rushing touchdowns by Williams helped the Dolphins race out to an early 21-7 lead. But as he did numerous times throughout his career, Brady led the comeback. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Troy Brown and sequential two-point conversion cut the Patriots' deficit to 24-21 with 2:46 left. The Patriots' defense then forced a quick three-and-out before Brady and the offense received a short field following a 23-yard punt. The favorable field position set up Adam Vinatieri's game-tying field goal that ultimately sent the game to overtime.
New England won the game in overtime on Vinatieri's 35-yard field goal just two minutes into the extra session. The Patriots would also be home for the playoffs, but their 27-24 win over Miami ensured that the Dolphins would be going home as well.
"It's No. 1. It's not even close," Williams said when asked if that was his toughest career loss. "There's these rare moments in our lives where we have an opportunity for greatness. I've been there, and I've been lucky enough to capitalize on them because the team was able to buy in enough to believe that we could do it. And then there are these other moments to get right to the precipice and it's just not there."
Williams does not particularly enjoy talking about that game. Williams is, however, interested in talking about how Brady can make an impact to society in retirement. Williams said he was "really, really excited" upon hearing the news that Brady was hanging up his cleats following a 22-year playing career.
"I realize that when you're in the NFL you're under certain constraints," Williams said. "When you leave the NFL, those restraints are removed. I think he's going to share his genius with us. He's going to share these secrets. Without the confines of the NFL, he's going to be able to do that. I'm excited to see what he does next."