3 Players Who Deserve More Credit for the Patriots' Dynasty in the Early 2000s

Corey Dillon, Tom Brady
Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri have always received praise for the Patriots' successes in the early 2000s, but these three players deserve more credit. | Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Quarterback Tom Brady and kicker Adam Vinatieri receive most of the praise for the New England Patriots' dynasty in the early 2000s, but there were so many key members of those three championship teams.

Looking back on New England's Super Bowl triumphs in 2001, 2003, and 2004, here are three of the most underrated Patriots who helped kickstart an unprecedented run of success.

3. Troy Brown

Troy Brown, Scott Galyon
Wide receiver Troy Brown's contributions helped the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title in 2001. | JOHN MOTTERN/Getty Images

While some may not remember wide receiver Troy Brown as a crucial part of the Patriots' dynasty, he was an important piece of the 2001 squad. Brown caught 101 balls, a franchise record at the time, and topped 1,000 receiving yards with five touchdowns, serving as a reliable outside option for a young Tom Brady. Brown's AFC Championship punt return touchdown also sent New England to Super Bowl XXXVI, where Brady and Belichick would shock the St. Louis Rams and start a new NFL dynasty.

2. Mike Vrabel

Mike Vrabel, Lito Sheppard
Linebacker Mike Vrabel made significant contributions on both sides of the ball, and was a steady presence on New England's early championship teams. | Harry How/Getty Images

Former Patriot Mike Vrabel famously ended New England's dynasty as head coach of the Tennessee Titans in January, but the linebacker played a crucial role in getting the dynasty off the ground in the early 2000s. In addition to his stellar contributions on defense, Vrabel caught touchdowns as a tight end in both Super Bowl XXXVIII and Super Bowl XXXIX, helping New England escape both games with one-score victories.

1. Corey Dillon

Corey Dillon
Running back Corey Dillon was a great addition for New England, rushing for 1,635 yards in 2004 and helping the Patriots secure dynasty status. | Joe Murphy/Getty Images

The Patriots acquired running back Corey Dillon prior to the 2004 season, and while he only contributed to one Super Bowl victory, the veteran rushed for 1,635 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first year with the team. While he is most known for his time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Dillon was one of New England's most important offensive weapons in 2004, and even rushed for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Philadelphia Eagles. Without his contributions, it is unclear whether the Patriots could have secured their third title in four years to cement their dynasty status.