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Fan Notes from The Tuck Rule Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the Infamous Tuck Rule Game of January 19, 2002.

You know who's not over the Tuck Rule?  This guy!
You know who's not over the Tuck Rule? This guy!
Thearon W. Henderson

In honor of the NFL's decision to finally outlaw the ever so controversial and highly contested Tuck Rule this past week, The NFL Network decided to air the playoff game that launched it into the spotlight this afternoon, taking us all back to January 19, 2002 for Tom Brady's first ever playoff game against the Oakland Raiders in what would be the last game ever played at the old Foxboro Stadium. It was a rare nice day in New York City, I had a ton of errands to run, and my girlfriend wanted to spend the day looking for a new bookcase for the living room, so naturally I decided to forgo all of those things and watch the game instead.

Unfortunately, it only crossed my mind that it would be fun to take notes on the game about 12 minutes into the 4th quarter, right after Tommy B had run the ball in for New England's only touchdown of the day and tripped all over himself trying to spike it. And since I had been channel surfing during the commercials and didn't have the foresight to DVR the game, I unfortunately only have notes for the last few minutes of regulation and overtime. But honestly, what other parts of this game really matter anyway?

  • There are obviously two huge plays from this game that are most remembered and will be most remembered 50 years from now: Adam Vinatieri's 45 yard field goal, and the Charles Woodson "fumble" that will forever live in Tuck Rule infamy. However, perhaps no play was more crucial to the Patriots than the 3rd down stop with 2:24 left to play in regulation. Oakland had a 3rd and 1 at their own 44 and New England was down to their last timeout. A first down would pretty much have iced the game for the Raiders, but courtesy of Richard Seymour and Roman Phifer, Zack Crockett went nowhere and gave the Patriots one last possession. Crocket weighs 240 pounds. Stopping a team from gaining 1 yard in the blinding snow when they had been ruinning well all night is nothing short of remarkable.
  • I had also forgotten that Troy Brown actually fumbled the ensuing punt return. Luckily, Larry Izzo was there to fall on it.
  • That fumble aside, overall Troy Brown had a hell of a game as a punt returner. He didn't get a lot of yards, but when it mattered most he set the Pats up with great field position.
  • If it wasn't for the lower resolution of the game, those cutaways to fans in the stands could just as easily been from last season as they were from 2001. For some reason, I don't think "overweight with shaggy hair and a mustache" will ever go out of style in the general Massachusetts area.
  • Almost every screen the Patriots ran worked very well. Kevin Faulk had some big gains, Mark Edwards ran for a few first downs, and J.R. Redmond had probably the run of the night when he caught a screen in overtime, broke two tackles, and set the Patriots up in Oakland territory.
  • Jermaine Wiggins had a phenomenal game. He had a few key drops in the first half, but came up huge in the second as Tom Brady's primary target on New England's 4th quarter touchdown drive. He also had a massive pickup on 3rd and 5 in overtime to set the Patriots up on the Oakland 34 yard line. He caught pretty much everything that Tommy B threw his way, including a pass intended for David Patten but bobbled on the sideline late in the 4th.
  • The Charles Woodson hit that launched the infamous Tuck Rule most likely should have been Roughing the the Passer anyway, as Woodson came in and hit Tommy B pretty hard on the head on his way to jarring the ball loose. I'm glad they didn't call it, for any number of reasons, but it's always fun to look back at the way the game was played 10 years ago, especially when farting in the general vicinity of a quarterback is now a 15 yard penalty and a $50,000 fine.
  • The MVP of the game, in my opinion, was David Patten and it isn't even close. Patten had eight catches for 107 yards on the day, including the catch for a 1st down that got the team in field goal range immediately following The Tuck Rule play. Patten also had a catch on 4th and 4 in overtime that kept the winning drive alive. Furthermore, he made that grab on the ground after having fallen in the snow for what was one of three or four miracle catches he made that day. Absolute monster game. Pretty much everything huge that happened to the Patriots, he was in on.
  • Adamn Vinatieri had missed four of his last five field goals from 40-49 yards prior to kicking that 45 yarder to tie the game. His other field goals on the day were from 21 and 22 yards, both of which barely made it through the crossbars. He had no business making that kick.
  • Phil Simms was just as bumbling, incompetent, and irritating in 2002 as he was in 2012. At least we can give the man credit for consistency.
  • I was a sophomore in college in January of 2002. I watched this game in the lounge of my fraternity house, located just a 40 minute drive from Foxboro Stadium, and was contemplating going out and throwing myself in front of the next oncoming snowplow when I thought the season was over. Needless to say, I opted to wait for the official decision regarding the fumble, and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • It wasn't just that play and that field goal that launched the Patriots dynasty; it was everything. It was role players coming up big when they were needed. It was the defense keeping the game close. It was solid coaching, great halftime adjustments, and Tom Brady deciding that it was time for him to take control of the game the way he would continue to do for the next eleven years.