By: Russ Goldman
There have been many special games in the history of the Patriots, but there is one that I feel changed their destiny forever. January 19th is the ten year anniversary of the Divisional Round playoff game where the Patriots dramatically beat the Raiders in overtime 16-13 in the final game at Foxboro Stadium. Many call it the “tuck rule” game, and the significance of that rule, and the resulting victory set off an incredible time in Patriots history. Here is the view of the ” beginning of the Patriots dynasty through my eyes”.
I have been a fan of the Patriots since 1975, and have seen my share of heartache. I can point to the 1976 playoff game against the Oakland Raiders in which the Patriots lost, and Super Bowl XX where the Patriots lost to the Bears as early low points of being a fan of this team.
Patriots would have many lean years, but then there would be those seasons that they would get close to the top, but just couldn’t win it all. Honestly, their luck changed on a snowy Saturday Night on January 19th, 2002.
I can remember it like it was yesterday as many experts were picking the Raiders to beat the Patriots. If I am being completely honest, the Raiders were the better team in the first half. Late in the game the Patriots were trailing 13-10, but had the ball on the Raiders side of the field.
Less than two minutes to go into the game, Tom Brady went back to pass, and was hit by Charles Woodson. The ball was fumbled and recovered by Greg Biekert of the Raiders.
Watching it live I thought it was a fumble, but the play would be reviewed, and referee Walt Coleman called it an incomplete pass because Brady’s arm was going forward.
I am not going into details regarding the “tuck rule”, but I will say according to this NFL rule, it was the right call. Fans of the NFL can argue about the validity of the rule all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that the reversal of the fumble was the right decision.
The significance of that rule did change history, and as a fan I need to call it like I see it. The Patriots probably do not have the level of success they have had since without the aforementioned rule.
In the NFL Network show, America’s Game: 2001 New England Patriots, Patriots player Lawyer Milloy would mention how the tuck rule gave the Patriots another chance. The best commentary of this show came from the narrator Martin Sheen, who stated these lines below that really explains the result of the “tuck rule” for the Patriots.
It was much more. It was the first brick in the foundation of a dyanasty.
Adam Vinatieri would hit a dramatic field goal through the snow that would bring the game to overtime. Vinatieri would then hit the winning field goal in overtime that would propel the Patriots to the AFC Championship game against the Steelers.
After the victory against the Steelers, they would beat the Rams in the Super Bowl, and the Patriots would have their first Lombardi trophy. However, it all really began back on the last night of Foxboro Stadium, which was a few weeks before the Super Bowl.
I had a hard time with the “tuck rule” being such a factor in the history of the Patriots at first. However, the Patriots had so many breaks go against them in their history prior, that I have learned to embrace the rule.
I still hear Raiders fans, and some of their former players still talking about the tuck rule. I understand that, but as a Patriots fan, that rule makes up for referee Ben Dreith’s “roughing the passer” call on Ray Hamilton in 1976 against the Raiders that was an extremely questionable call.
That call changed the Raiders history, as they won that playoff game 16-13 in Oakland. They went on to win the Super Bowl, and have their own time of dominance in the NFL. I guess you can say what goes around comes around.
Think about how much success the Patriots have had since the “tuck rule”. It is incredible, and as a fan I feel blessed to have seen them win the title three times.
I think it is important to remember all that has been accomplished these last ten years. Whether the Patriots win it all this year or not, I have seen so much success that it is all a bonus to me moving forward.
I have heard many NFL fans and media members mention that the Patriots would not have the level of success they have had without the tuck rule. I agree with them, and that is fine with me, because I have seen ten years of incredible football, and it all began on a snowy night in Foxboro.
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