Perhaps Tuesday’s Media Day and all the talk from the Raider’s camp about last year’s playoff game and the “tuck rule” is beginning to convince you that the Patriots did not deserve to win that game; and by some extension, their first Super Bowl title. And then there’s that little voice in the back of your mind saying “Hey, maybe the Raiders really should have won that game.” After all, we Boston sports fans are an insecure bunch, aren’t we?
I decided to undertake my own soul searching on this matter and am here to report the results. I’ve come to the conclusion that as a Patriots fan, you have nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to the happenings of Saturday night, January 19th, 2002. The Patriots won that game fair and square.
Earlier this evening, I proceeded to dust off my “Three Games to Glory” DVD and reviewed the second half of the Raiders-Patriots game. The results of this scientific endeavor are indeed revealing. By my count, there were at least five drives in the last quarter of regulation and overtime that either the Patriots converted on or the Raiders were stopped on. Perhaps, if the Raiders made one or two plays, or maybe even three plays at the most, during this stretch they would have won the game outright. But they didn’t. Instead, the Patriots made plays when it counted. Without further ado, let’s go to the tape. Err, I mean DVD.
Early in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady marched the Patriots down the field and brought the Patriots to within a field goal. On this drive, he goes 10 for 10 in the middle of a snowstorm and makes a gutsy run up the middle and into the end zone. A great team (the self-proclaimed Raiders, in this case) would never let a second-year quarterback convert like this and let them back in the game. Such a team would tighten up and end the game right then and there.
On the next drive, the Raiders were unable to control the clock and were eventually forced to punt the ball away. The big play on this series was a huge 3rd down stop of Charlie Garner by Roman Phifer. Wouldn’t a great team (hello, Raiders) march down the field, chew up the clock, and put the game away?
After a Patriots ensuing three and out, the Raiders were handed the ball and needed to convert one first down to get under the two minute warning and ice the game. Remember, the Patriots had no time outs and no way to stop the clock. On 2nd and short and 3rd and short, the Patriots defense subsequently stopped Charlie Garner and then Zack Crockett. This forced the Raiders to punt the ball away on fourth down with 2:41 to go in the game. Doesn’t a Super Bowl-caliber team usually get a first down and ice the game in this situation? One would think so.
On the ensuing punt, Troy Brown returned the punt for a huge 15 yard return and put the Patriots into Raiders territory. Isn’t tight punt coverage a hallmark of a championship team?
For the sake of expediency, I’ll skip a thorough analysis of the infamous “tuck” play. But I will point out that, according to the rules, the right call was made and that Charles Woodson should have been called for 15-yard personal foul penalty for the hands to the face blow he delivered on Tom Brady. But we digress…..
After this play, Brady converts a huge pass to David Patten to put Adam Vinatieri into field goal range. Where was the Raiders secondary on this play? As we all know, on the next play, Mr. Vinatieri converts perhaps one of the greatest kicks in the history of the NFL. Keep in mind, the Raiders had no time outs to try and ice Vinatieri because they all had been burned in the second half. Shouldn’t a superior team manage the clock better than the Patriots and not burn these timeouts?
In overtime, the Raiders allow Patrick Pass to return the kickoff to the 34 yard line and gave the Patriots a short field with which to work from. Shortly thereafter, J.R. Redmond (where have you gone?) catches a harmless screen pass and scampers for 20 yards because of poor Raider tackling. Brady then converts another first down in Raider territory with a pass to East Boston’s Jermaine Wiggins. On 4th and 3 at the Raiders 27 yard line, Brady converts a first down by hitting David Patten. Next, Antowain Smith scrambles for a first down inside the Raider 10 yard line.
Moments later, Adam Vinatieri converts a chip shot and wins the game fair and square.
This is to take nothing away from the 2002 AFC Champion Raiders. They are a much more complete team than last year and are good. Really good. In fact, they just might win on Sunday. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, relax New England. You can still stand proud and tall with the knowledge that your 2001 Patriots earned their championship fair and square.
A bonus Zinger for you…….
Over the years I have come to enjoy Ron Borges columns in the Globe. However, it appears that he does have a soft spot for the Raiders. That’s clearly his prerogative and right. I have one for the Patriots. In Sunday’s Globe, he had a fairly rare interview with Raiders owner Al Davis. Overall, I thought the article was a good read and entertaining. However, Borges missed an opportunity when Davis was discussing the infamous “tuck” play. As can be expected, Davis is still irate over the call. As I read this, I wished Borges would have asked Davis if he thought that the “roughing the passer” call against the Patriots in the 1976 Raiders-Patriots playoff game was a fair call. His answer, as they say, would have made excellent copy.
Enjoy the game. I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org