January 19, 2002 changed the New England Patriots forever after the now retired Tuck Rule was enacted resulting in a controversial finish to an AFC divisional playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. The call would inevitably lead to the first Super Bowl win in New England Patriots history.
The Patriots were trailing behind by 3 points in the final snowy moments of the game when Tom Brady dropped back to pass but lost the football in what looked like a sack and fumble. After the replay, chaos ensued.
Referee Walt Coleman reversed his initial recovered fumble call and evoked the Tuck Rule declaring the play an incomplete forward pass, and giving possession back to New England.
The Tuck Rule states that “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.” The rule had only ever been used once before in 2001 in a game between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots.
With possession returned to the Patriots, the two teams battled it out in a blizzard, fighting for a spot in the AFC Title game. Before the Tuck Rule call, the Raiders were winning 13-10 and the fumble would have secured the team’s win--but Coleman’s call was a literal game changer. Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri sent the game into overtime and then secured the win on a second field goal moments later.
Two games later, the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI marking the beginning of a dominant dynasty and the first of five Patriot Super Bowl wins. 11 years later, in 2013, the Tuck Rule was finally eliminated.
The Patriots will have the chance to add another Super Bowl win to their repertoire this year when they face off with the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday February 3.