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Tuck Rule Game

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2001 AFC divisional playoff game
1234OT Total
OAK 07600 13
NE 003103 16
Date January 19, 2002
Stadium Foxboro Stadium[1]
Location Foxborough, Massachusetts

The 2001 AFC divisional playoff game, also known as the "Tuck Rule Game,"[2] "Snow Bowl,"[3][4] or the "Snow Job,"[5][6] was a playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. It took place on January 19, 2002, at Foxboro Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the former home stadium of the Patriots. This was also the final game ever played at Foxboro Stadium, with the Patriots moving to Gillette Stadium the following season.

The name "Tuck Rule Game" originates from the controversial game-changing play. In the play, Raiders' cornerback Charles Woodson sacked Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady, which in turn, initially appeared to cause a fumble that was eventually recovered by Raiders' linebacker Greg Biekert, and, if it was a fumble, would have almost certainly sealed the game. Officials reviewed the play, and eventually determined that Brady had halted his passing motion and was attempting to 'tuck' the ball back into his body, thus making it an incomplete pass and not a fumble under the then-effective NFL rules. As a result, the original call was overturned, and the ball was given back to the Patriots, who subsequently moved the ball into field goal range.

With under a minute remaining in regulation, Patriots' placekicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal to tie the game at 13, which sent the game into overtime. In the subsequent overtime, Vinatieri kicked a 23-yard field goal to win the game for the Patriots. New England went on to win Super Bowl XXXVI.

The Game

The Patriots were the number 2 seed in the playoffs, having posted a 11-5 win-loss record in the regular season. The season had been wild for the Patriots, who after a 0-2 start, had to put in second string quarterback Tom Brady after their veteran quarterback Drew Bledsoe suffered a sheared blood vessel vs. the New York Jets. The Oakland Raiders were the 3 seed in the playoffs, having posted a 10-6 regular season record. The Raiders had previously beaten the Jets in the wildcard round in the playoffs 38-24. The game appeared to be dominated by the Raiders, who had built up a 13-3 fourth quarter lead with 8:00 remaining in the game. However, Tom Brady rushed for a touchdown with 7:57 remaining in the game.

The "tuck rule" play and call

Playing in a heavy snow storm, Oakland led at halftime, 7–0, and then took a 13–3 lead into the fourth quarter after two field goals. Brady rushed in for a touchdown to cut the lead to 13–10. With only a few minutes left to play, the Patriots drove the ball down the field, having taken over at their own 46 yard line with 2:06 to play. On a timeout, Raiders cornerback Eric Allen, while lurking at the Patriots sideline, heard Brady talking to the offensive coordinator. Allen states that he heard Brady call a 3 by 1 slants route. Right after hearing the play, Allen rushed to his sideline and told his team what he had heard. While they were slightly out of field goal range, Brady dropped back to pass, using the same play he had told his coordinator. While pumping the football, Brady was hit on his right side by Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson. While it appeared that Brady had dropped the ball, the referees were not sure and ruled it a fumble so they could review the play.

In 1999, though, a new rule had been introduced, which eventually became known as the tuck rule:

NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.[7]
File:Tuck Rule Tackle.png
The tackle that generated controversy

After instant replay, referee Walt Coleman reversed this call, declared the play an incomplete forward pass, and gave possession back to New England. In explaining the reversal to the stadium crowd and the television audience, the referee stated that the ball was moving forward at the time it was dropped. In later interviews, the referee stated that it was his explanation, not the reversal, that was in error; the ball was moving backwards when it was lost, but the tuck rule applied. Thus, the original call was overturned, and New England maintained possession.

Because the play was initially ruled a fumble, instant replay rules required the referee to see "incontrovertible visual evidence" on the replay that Brady had not "tucked the ball into his body and then {lost} possession" of it before reversing the original call on the field. In 2012, on the ten-year anniversary of the game, Coleman told ESPN that he did not see Brady lose the ball, and, as NFL refs were trained to do in this situation, ruled it a fumble because that call could be reviewed while an incomplete pass could not; once he saw a replay, Coleman quickly reversed his previous ruling, telling ESPN it was an "easy" call.[8]

Though the tuck rule was most famously called in this game, however it was not the first time it was called in the 2001-2002 NFL season. [9] On September 23rd, 2001, in a regular season match up between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots, Patriots' defensive end Anthony Pleasant apparently forced Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde to fumble the ball with 1:09 left in the second quarter, with Patriots' defensive end Richard Seymour making a recovery.[10] The call was overturned upon review and ruled an incomplete pass. In the aftermath of the Tuck Rule Game, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told ESPN, "I knew what the ruling should have been because we had dealt with that play a little bit earlier in the year on the other side of it." [11]

The tuck rule was abolished on March 20, 2013, by a 29–1 vote of current teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers voted against abolishment, while two teams, the Patriots and the Washington Redskins, abstained from the vote.[12]

The aftermath

Brady completed a 13-yard pass to David Patten that advanced the ball to the Raiders 29. Shortly thereafter, Vinatieri came on to attempt a game-tying field goal. Kicking through the snow, Vinatieri's line-drive kick was good from 45 yards away with 27 seconds left, and the game was tied. After the ensuing kickoff, the Raiders decided not to attempt to advance the ball and let the game go to overtime.

The Patriots won the toss and took the ball to start overtime. They drove 61 yards in 15 plays, with Brady completing all eight of his pass attempts for 45 yards. On fourth down and 4 from the Raiders 28, Brady hit Patten for a six-yard completion. While Vinatieri's game-tying kick had the wind at his back, this drive was into the wind and the Patriots wanted to move closer. Following five runs from Antowain Smith and one from Brady, and after a drive of more than eight minutes, Vinatieri and holder Ken Walter cleared snow away from where the ball would be spotted. Vinatieri then gave New England its first lead of the game with a 23-yard field goal. The Patriots won 16–13. It was the final game at Foxboro Stadium, due to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning their divisional playoff game (they had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs).

With the win, the Patriots advanced to the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers, where they scored a 24–17 victory, and then defeated the NFC champion St. Louis Rams 20–17 in Super Bowl XXXVI on a last-second field goal by Vinatieri to capture their first Super Bowl championship. The Patriots would go on to win Super Bowls XXXVIII, XXXIX, and XLIX as well as appear in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.

For the Raiders, they would go to the Super Bowl one year later, only to be beaten by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their former head coach, Jon Gruden, by the score of 48–21. The Raiders have neither gone to the playoffs nor had a winning season since.

As of the end of the 2014 season, Coleman has officiated 198 more NFL games, including 15 more involving the New England Patriots (including the playoffs), but none involving the Oakland Raiders.[13]

Starting lineups

Oakland Position New England
Tim Brown WR Troy Brown
Barry Sims LT Matt Light
Steve Wisniewski LG Mike Compton
Adam Treu C Damien Woody
Frank Middleton RG Joe Andruzzi
Lincoln Kennedy RT Greg Robinson-Randall
Roland Williams TE Rod Rutledge
Jerry Rice WR David Patten
Rich Gannon QB Tom Brady
Charlie Garner RB Antowain Smith
Jon Ritchie FB Marc Edwards
Regan Upshaw LE Bobby Hamilton
Rod Coleman LDT Brandon Mitchell
Grady Jackson RDT Riddick Parker
Tony Bryant RE Anthony Pleasant
William Thomas LOLB Mike Vrabel
Greg Biekert MLB Tedy Bruschi
Elijah Alexander ROLB Roman Phifer
Charles Woodson LCB Ty Law
Eric Allen RCB Otis Smith
Johnnie Harris SS Lawyer Milloy
Anthony Dorsett FS Tebucky Jones

See also


External links