The year was 2002. Second year quarterback Tom Brady had the offense just outside of field goal range with 1:50 left in the 4th quarter, trailing by 3. Brady dropped back with a trip to the AFC Championship Game on the line...and was sacked by Charles Woodson, losing the ball in what the referees initially ruled a fumble. The game was over. The magical season that saw the unlikely emergence of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time was over. The Patriots best chance at a Super Bowl in more than 5 years was over.
And then it wasn’t. Walt Coleman got under the hood, and cited the borderline unknown “Tuck Rule”, determining that it was indeed an incomplete pass and not a fumble as ruled on the field. The drive continued, and hope was alive. The Patriots forced overtime on an Adam Vinatieri field goal, and won the game on an additional Vinatieri field goal in overtime.
It was a game that made fans truly believe in the magic of the season, a controversial game that sparked a controversial dynasty, and, most importanly, a game that the Patriots won on their way to their first Super Bowl title.
On the 15th anniversary of the “Tuck Rule” game, check out The Ringer’s oral history of the Tuck Rule game, written by Michael Weinreb.