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2019 NFL Hall of Fame class: Comparing ex-Patriots cornerback Ty Law to the other defensive back finalists

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How does ex-Patriot Ty Law compare to the other defensive backs up for the vote?

Super Bowl XXXVI - New England Patriots vs St. Louis Rams - February 3, 2002 Photo by Nancy Kerrigan/Getty Images

Yesterday, the NFL announced its nominees for the 2019 NFL Hall of Fame class. Among the 13 players to survive the latest round of cuts are two former members of the New England Patriots: cornerback Ty Law and defensive tackle Richard Seymour. While this marks the first time that Seymour has reached the finals, Law is no stranger to this process after making it this far in both 2017 and 2018.

Both players are up against terrific competition, but Law in particular appears to have a tough road ahead of him: he is one of five defensive backs to reach the finals, alongside Steve Atwater, Champ Bailey, John Lynch, and Ed Reed. Let’s find out how the Patriots Hall of Famer compares to his competition and assess his chances of finally also making Pro Football’s Hall of Fame.

First up, we take a look at the ex-Patriots’ career:

Ty Law

Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Regular season 203 838 53 5.0 7 5 7 Pro Bowl (5), All-Pro (2)
Postseason 13 55 6 0.0 0 0 1 Super Bowl (3)*
*Law was inactive in Super Bowl 39

Law has posted some impressive numbers over his 15 years in the NFL, both when it comes to individual performance and accolades and when it comes to team success: the 44-year old was an integral part of the Patriots’ early dynasty (he did miss the team’s third title run due to injury, however) and made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history when he returned a Kurt Warner interception for the first points in Super Bowl 36.

All in all, Law certainly has a résumé worthy of Hall of Fame consideration but as we will see so have the other four players — and they the race for the famed golden jacket will be a close one.

Steve Atwater

Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Regular season 167 1,180 24 5.0 6 8 1 Pro Bowl (8); All-Pro (3)
Postseason* 14 41 1 1.0 2 0 0 Super Bowl (2)
*postseason stats incomplete

When looking at the numbers, Steve Atwater’s career closely resembles Law’s: he has been a part of Super Bowl-winning teams — he earned two rings as a member of the late-1990s Denver Broncos —, and received multiple individual accolades. He also is a third-time finalist like Law and has posted solid numbers in both the regular season and the playoffs. Atwater certainly is deserving of Hall of Fame recognition, but Law’s role in helping establish a dynasty in New England might ultimately give him a slight edge.

Champ Bailey

Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Regular season 215 908 52 3.0 7 6 4 Pro Bowl (12), All-Pro (5)
Postseason 11 34 2 0.0 0 0 0 --

Champ Bailey cornerback, who was drafted by the Washington Redskins but played most of his career for the Denver Broncos, has posted some outstanding regular season numbers and was also a difference maker in the playoffs — at least from time to time (just think back to the Patriots’ divisional round loss in Denver in 2005). And while he may not have won a Super Bowl ring during his 15 seasons in the NFL, he still has a very good case to make the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

John Lynch

Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Regular season 224 1,054 26 13.0 16 9 0 Pro Bowl (9), All-Pro (4)
Postseason 12 59 2 0.0 0 0 0 Super Bowl (1)

These days, John Lynch is making headlines as the San Francisco 49ers’ general manager. Before moving into a front office role, however, he was a hard-hitting safety that spent the majority of his 15 years in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lynch played a key role in helping the franchise win its only Super Bowl in 2000 — and in helping the team become a contender for the first time. Already a five-time finalist before yesterday’s announcement, it would not be a surprise to see Lynch finally make it this year.

Ed Reed

Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Games played Tackles Interceptions Sacks Fumbles forced Fumbles recovered Defensive TDs Accolades
Regular season 174 643 64 6.0 11 13 9 Pro Bowl (9), All-Pro (8)
Postseason 15 46 9 0.0 0 1 1 Super Bowl (1)

Last but certainly not least is the defensive back with the best case of making the Hall of Fame this year: ex-Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed. The 2002 first-round draft pick has it all: from the stats to winning a Super Bowl to being named to the Pro Bowl or All-Pro team a combined 17 times. Furthermore, Reed has a prominent backer in Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who once called him “the best free safety that has ever played the game.” Given all of that, anything but the 40-year old making the Hall of Fame this year would be a shocker.

With Reed as safe a bet to make it as there is, four defensive backs remain, and Law has a solid case among them. While voters could always go with a flashier story — John Lynch is finally in! Champ Bailey has not won a Super Bowl! — there is no denying that he is certainly deserving of recognition among the game’s greatest ever; among those without whom the story of the NFL could not be written.

Just look at it this way: the image of Law running down the sidelines with his right arm held up high in the air after picking off the aforementioned Kurt Warner in Super Bowl 36, is one of the most striking ones of the early 2000s. While Atwater, Bailey and Lynch have all had tremendous success over their careers, they (Atwater and Bailey in particular) lack a signature moment like this one.