The Tuck Rule Game; The Snowfall and Call that launched a Dynasty

The NFL is my favorite sports league.  This lockout has been getting on my nerves and I need my NFL fix.  What better way than to talk about January 19, 2002?  Up until this point winter 2001-02 was off to a slow start.  Temperatures climbed into the mid 70's in early December that year.   Snowfall was non existent across Southern New England for much of the season.  But as the New England Patriots were planning to take on the Oakland Raiders in the final game at Foxboro Stadium, an area of low pressure tracked to south of New England, drawing down cold arctic air and blanketing the region with snowfall.  The game took place on a Saturday Night and a national TV audience watched one of the greatest, most controversial games in NFL history in a heavy snowfall.  From the snow to the Tuck Rule play to Adam Vinatieri's 45 yard kick, this game had it all except for Oakland Raiders fans.

courtesy of AP

Oakland was the 3 seed as the AFC West champion, while the Patriots were the 2 seed as the AFC East champion.  The two squads did not meet in the regular season.  Despite the moaning and groaning Oakland fans feel about this game, Patriots fans had just as big of a gripe in the 1976 playoffs.  The Raiders were 13-1 (14 game season at this point) and the Patriots were 11-3, the best record they had until 2003.  However Oakland's lone loss was 48-17 beatdown by the Patriots.  The Patriots led, 21-17 late in the fourth quarter when Patriots defensive lineman Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamiliton sacked Kenny Stabler on 3rd and long.  However, a roughing the passer penalty was called.  Replays showed no illegal contact and Stabler later admitted the refs helped him out with that call.  Oakland went on to win the game and Super Bowl IX, crushing the Vikings 32-14.  John Madden was the coach of this Raiders team, believe it or not.

Oakland was led by Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Charles Woodson.  New England was led by Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, and Troy Brown.  Oakland grabbed a 7-0 halftime lead and extended that lead to 13-3 in the 4th quarter.  Tom Brady, providing a glimpse of what he would become, led the Patriots down field and scored a rushing touchdown to narrow the deficit to 13-10.  The Patriots would get the ball back and just after the 2 minutes warning, Woodson appeared to sack Brady and cause him to fumble, which Oakland recovered.  The game appeared over until referee Walt Coleman correctly ruled that Brady's arm was moving forward in a "tucking" motion and therefore the pass was incomplete.  An odd rule to say the least, many NFL fans were unaware of the rule.

Never-the-less the Patriots moved into field goal position.  However with 5 inches of snow on the field, a fierce wind howling and low visibility, a 45 yard field goal was no easy kick.  Vinatieri nailed the kick, considered the greatest kick in NFL history by Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports (as well as many other experts).  The Patriots won the toss in overtime, moved Vinatieri in position again, this time a much easier 23 yard field goal to win the game and send the Patriots to the AFC championship game for the third time in their history.  The Patriots would upset the Steelers, 24-17 and then the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI to capture their first championship that would launch a dynasty.  Oakland went into a tailspin, despite making Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.  They were crushed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-21 and have not had a winning season since.  Head coach Jon "Chucky" Gruden left the Raiders after the tuck rule game to coach Tampa ironically.  Woodson, Brady's teamate at Michigan would later win a Super Bowl ring with the Green Bay Packers.

thanks to Raymond C Martin

By New England standards the snowfall was not heavy.  On average 6-10 inches fell in the region with the higher amounts along the south coast.  The snowfall was the most significant event of the 2001-02 winter season.  Boston saw only 13.4 inches of snow that winter, Providence 13.8, and Worcester 30.1.  All of these were well below the average winter season.  Nearly 50% of the Boston and Providence values came from this storm.  Boston checked in with 6 inches, though closer to 10 fell in Foxboro.  The Patriots are credited with keeping people off the roads as many stayed home to watch the game and what a game it was.
Thanks to raymond c martin
Thanks to National Weather Service for snowfall totals and Raymond Martin's winter storm page for images


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