HomeSportsOn This Day: Patriots Beat the Raiders in Controversial ‘Tuck Rule Game’ in 2002

On This Day: Patriots Beat the Raiders in Controversial ‘Tuck Rule Game’ in 2002

by Thad Mitchell
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In an infamous game 19 years ago, the New England Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders. The game is one of, if not the, most controversial games in league history. The Patriots defeated the Raiders to advance in the playoffs.

The divisional round playoff game saw heavy snowfall through all four quarters. The Patriots won the game 16-13 after what is widely thought of as the most controversial play in sports history.

Despite the game being nearly two decades old, it still carries a great amount of significance today. Many football analysts say it was a defining moment in the league’s history. Others say the play lead to the New England Patriots dynasty that saw them win multiple Super Bowls.

The game was the last ever in Foxboro Stadium, the former home of the Patriots. With the game hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter, the tuck rule took center stage.

Patriots Dynasty Starts With ‘Tuck Rule’ Game

With under two minutes left in the game and down 13-10, the Patriots need a field goal to tie the game. With snow falling and the clock ticking, the Pats faced long odds to win the game.

Tom Brady, the Patriot’s starting quarterback at the time, took the snap from center and dropped back to pass. A blitzing Charles Woodson tackled Brady behind the line of scrimmage, knocking the ball free. The loose football recovery went to Oakland Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert. Game referees initially ruled the play a fumble and awarded the ball to the Raiders.

Upon reviewing the play, referees reversed the call saying it was an incomplete pass. Their reasoning was that Brady’s arm was moving forward and he “tucked” the ball as it came out of his hands. By NFL rules at the time, it was correctly determined that the play was an incomplete pass and possession remained with the Patriots.

Retaining possession, the Patriots would drive down the field and kick a field goal to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the extra period, the Pats would kick another field goal to win the game. The team would go on to win the Super Bowl, kicking off one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties.