The latest in our series of defining moments, we look at Tom Brady and the Tuck Rule, whether or not this is Brady’s ultimate defining moment is unlikely, but this play, this innocent little 1st and 10 in this game was a pivotal point in his career. If the ruling goes the other way then Brady would certainly be less one super bowl, who knows maybe more? Perhaps annoyed at the fumble coach Belichick makes then injured Drew Bledsoe the starter for the following season. Tom Brady’s entire career could be entirely different if not for the overturning of a fumble on that fatal day.
Picture the scene, it’s 19th January 2002 in a snowy Foxborough, Massachussets. The AFC’s second seed New England Patriots are at home to the 10-6 Oakland Raiders. Under centre for the Patriots, Tom Brady who began the season behind veteran Drew Bledsoe on the Pats depth chart but was injured during a week 3 game against the Jets and sent to the bench. Brady had lead the Patriots to 11-5 after a 0-2 start under Bledsoe and was gaining a reputation as the hot young property in the NFL.
The Raiders and built up a healthy lead and were dominating the game, with 8 minutes to go in a heavy snow storm they were favourites to go on and win the game with the score at 13-3. Tom Brady rushed for a touchdown himself to bring the Pats within 3 of the raiders with still well over 7 minutes to go. With a few minutes left on the clock the Patriots got the ball on their own 46 and started to make their way down field, then it happened.
When a player (typically the quarterback) 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. However, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.
– The Tuck Rule
With the ball on the Raiders 42, just outside field goal range Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson sacked Brady and the ball squirms out of Brady’s hand, Raiders line-backer Greg Biekert falls on the loose ball. Turn over of the football, possession to the Raiders and the game is as good as over. However, inside of two minutes the officials review the ruling, the commentators are certain the ruling on the field will stand, the replay evidence shows that it could possibly stand.
Referee Walt Coleman, turns on his microphone.
“After reviewing the play, the quarterback’s arm was going forward and was an incomplete pass”.
The ruling on the field is over turned, the crowd goes absolutely mental and the Patriots continue from 2nd and 10. They would eventually tie the game on that drive with a 45 yard Adam Vinateri field goal to send the game into overtime. In overtime, the Pats took the ball and scored another Vinateri field goal from 29 yards on the opening possession. With the Raiders unable to respond the Pats advanced to play the Steelers in the AFC championship game and would ultimately go on to win Super Bowl XXXVI.
This game often referred to as the Snow Job by Raiders fans is undoubtedly a knife edge in the career of a man who would go on to be one of the greatest of all time.