With the NFL’s rule committee opting to eliminate the “Tuck Rule”, what better time to revisit the (in)famous tuck rule game that changed the fate of two franchises for over a decade? This takes us all the way back to the 2001 AFC Divisional Game (played on January 19, 2002) in a matchup between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. The game, which was termed, “The Snow Bowl”, was the final game played at Foxboro Stadium and featured one of the most controversial calls in NFL history.
Tom Brady was playing in his first ever playoff game and head coach Bill Belichick had no playoff wins on his resume at the time. Jon Gruden, then Oakland head coach, and his Raiders were the heavy favorites despite being the road team. They held a 13-10 lead with 1:50 remaining. The Patriots were driving and had the ball at the Raiders 42 yard line. And then, before anybody could blink an eye, cornerback Charles Woodson blitzed from the left side and hit Brady from his blindside as he was pump-faking the ball, causing Brady to lose control of it as Greg Biekert recovered for the Raiders. Game over. Raiders advance to the AFC Championship and the Patriots magical season comes to a screeching end.
Well, not so fast said referee Walt Coleman, who reviewed the play and announced to a frantic Foxboro crowd that the quarterback’s (Brady’s) arm was in throwing motion and therefore it was an incomplete pass.
The next play Brady completed a 13 yard pass to wide receiver David Patten. This set up a 45-yard-field goal by Adam Vinatieri, sending the game into overtime. The Patriots won the coin toss and marched down the field before Vinatieri booted another clutch field goal, sending the Patriots to the Conference Championship game.
The aftermath of the “Tuck Rule” was unprecedented as it gave new life to the Patriots, who went on to win their first of three Super Bowls in four years. Tom Brady and Belichick have now enjoyed over a decade of success together, reaching five Super Bowls and winning three Lombardi trophies
The Raiders, meanwhile, have been in complete turmoil as a franchise ever since that game. Oakland did reach the Super Bowl the next year but got steamrolled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former coach Jon Gruden in the 2002 Super Bowl. That was the most recent Raiders playoff appearance, as the franchise has endured eight losing seasons in the past 10 years. The Raiders are in disarray and the future looks bleak as the team continues to search for a franchise quarterback.
What if the “Tuck Rule” never existed? For the Patriots, would Brady still have turned out to be the best quarterback in NFL history? Would Bill Belichick still have enjoyed the same coaching success or would pressure have mounted, costing him his job?
Looking at it from the Raiders perspective, would the franchise have won the Super Bowl in 2001 and kept head coach Jon Gruden? Would the franchise’s fortunes be dramatically improved, avoiding a decade of futility?
Luckily for the Patriots, these questions will never be answered as the “Tuck Rule” was in full effect, helping the Patriots create the most recent NFL dynasty as the franchise enjoyed a decade of dominance.