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No cornerback dominated the game quite like Champ Bailey. In anticipation of Bailey’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at 2019 Enshrinement Week, we’re looking back at the five best moments of his Hall of Fame career.
When: October 17, 1999
It only took five games for Champ Bailey to make NFL history.
In his rookie season, Bailey and the Washington Redskins faced the Arizona Cardinals on the road. The Redskins sat at 3-1 and Bailey had already proven himself as an important cog in Washington’s defense, but this game showed what the pass stopper was truly capable of.
Bailey dominated the Cardinals offense, picking off starting quarterback Jake Plummer twice and then intercepting another pass from Plummer’s replacement, Dave Brown. With the immaculate performance, Bailey became the youngest player (21 years old) to intercept three passes in a single game.
When: March 4, 2004
Fifteen years later, we still haven’t seen a landscape-shifting trade at the magnitude of the Champ Bailey-Clinton Portis deal in 2004.
In what can truly be called a “blockbuster trade,” the Redskins shipped Bailey and a second-round draft pick to the Denver Broncos for running back Clinton Portis. While Bailey and Portis still go back and forth to this day about who got the better deal, the consensus is that this was a mutually beneficial trade for both sides.
Bailey affirmed the Broncos faith in him in his first game for the blue and orange, intercepting a pass against Kansas City in a 34-24 victory on Sunday Night Football.
When: January 14, 2006
It’s one of the most memorable plays in playoff history and is still talked about this day for its touch of controversy.
With a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance on the line, the New England Patriots entered Mile High Stadium in Denver for the AFC Divisional game.
With one minute remaining in the third quarter, the Patriots were on the Broncos’ 5-yard line, down 10-6.
Out of the shotgun, Tom Brady took the snap and immediately rolled out due to pressure. He floated a ball into the right corner of the endzone, only to be picked off by an anticipatory Bailey, who proceeded to charge down the field en route to the other end zone.
Right before Bailey crossed the goal line for the score, he was decked by Patriots tight end Ben Watson, knocking the ball out right before entering the end zone. The ball was marked inside of the one, and the Broncos went on to score a one-yard rushing touchdown to push their lead to 17-6.
The 100-yard return was ruled as the longest non-scoring play in NFL history at the time and is also the longest non-scoring play in NFL Playoff history.
When: 2006 Season
Hall of Fame players have to string together multiple seasons of incredible play to earn a spot in Canton, but often there is one campaign that stands above the rest.
For Bailey, that year is 2006.
In 16 games, Bailey tied for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions and 162 interception return yards. But Bailey was also famous for his physicality, and 2006 may have been the best example of that. The cornerback accumulated a career-high 85 total tackles, an astronomical number for a defensive back that was only targeted three to four times on average per game.
When: January 19, 2014
In the final season as a Bronco, Bailey had one last milestone to achieve before concluding a decade in Denver.
After enduring several losing seasons in Denver, Bailey and the Broncos found themselves in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots. Even in the waning years of his career, Bailey put on a performance solid enough to get the Broncos to the Super Bowl for the first time in over a decade and earn himself a Super Bowl berth for the first time in his career.
The stat sheet doesn’t show any insane numbers or a game-shifting turnover, but that’s the point. Bailey shut down the Patriots offense from one side of the field, allowing only one reception for four yards in Broncos’ 26-16 victory.
A ring still eluded Bailey, though, as the Broncos were blown out in the 2014 Super Bowl by the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8.
On August 3, Champ Bailey enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with the rest of the Class of 2019. See the Redskins and Broncos legend be enshrined with an Official Ticket Package from Hall of Fame Experiences. Select between single and multi-day packages, featuring exclusive parties and autograph sessions, for the ultimate experience at 2019 Enshrinement Week.
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