By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots-Raiders 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff game is best known for the infamous “Tuck Rule” call, which reversed a Tom Brady fumble to an incomplete pass and kept the ball in the Patriots’ hands. That moment is often cited as the one that kick-started the Patriots dynasty.READ MORE: Omicron COVID Variant Detected In Massachusetts Woman
But, of course, that’s a gross over-simplification of the 15 years (and counting) of dominance that would follow from Brady to Belichick, which could have happened even without a Super Bowl win that season. There’s simply no way to know how different the football universe would be had the fumble call stood on Brady.
It’s best to just go by what actually happened on the field that night. And the plays that immediately followed the Tuck Rule call, punctuated by Adam Vinatieri’s incredible 45-yard field goal to tie the game at the end of regulation, were the moments that you could argue really sparked the Patriots’ run.
If the Tuck Rule kicked the door open for the Patriots to come back and win that game, Vinatieri’s snow kick sent the door hurtling into the frigid Foxboro night. Looking back through a decade-and-a-half of amazing, borderline miraculous moments in the Patriots dynasty, Vinatieri booting a brick-like football through a thick blanket of snow and wind still stands as arguably the biggest miracle of all.
The enduring argument among Raiders fans (and anyone who likes to discredit the Patriots, really) is that the Raiders win the game if the Tuck Rule were not reversed. It’s a fair assessment, as the Raiders could have run the clock out and secured the win. But the play was not the stone-cold, hands-down, no-strings-attached difference between literally winning and losing. There were over a dozen plays between that call and the end of the game, which gave the Raiders over a dozen chances to stop the Patriots’ momentum.
First and foremost, the snow kick would not have happened without Brady making a 13-yard pass to David Patten on the first play after the fumble was reversed, which got the Patriots barely into field goal range. It was not the only chance that the Raiders had to stop Brady after the Tuck Rule happened.READ MORE: Wind Gusts Across Eastern Mass. Projected To Be 50 MPH Or Higher On Monday Night
The call reversal and Vinatieri’s 45-yard kick were so memorable and momentous that they overshadowed a dominant overtime drive by Brady and the Patriots. After winning the coin toss and getting the ball, the Pats’ first drive of OT started with a 24-yard return by Patrick Pass. Brady then went 8-for-8 passing in nine plays to get the Patriots to the Oakland 28-yard line. Then Antowain Smith carried the ball four times for 15 yards to set up Vinatieri’s eventual second snow kick, a 23-yard chip shot.
That superb overtime drive has long been swallowed up by 15 years of Tuck Rule takes, which continue to trickle out to this day. That drive is why when anyone tries to say the Raiders got screwed, it’s easy to say “Stop them. You had your chances. Lots of them.”
Still, it’s the 45-yard snow kick that should really get the glory for this game. Without it, there may be no Tuck Rule controversy to begin with. Even after setting Vinatieri up for the field goal, there’s no guarantee that it happens in that kind of environment. But again, let’s stick to what did happen, and what Vinatieri did that night was kick the Patriots toward a new era of prosperity.
What do you think deserves to be known as the moment that changed the Patriots franchise? Whatever it is, it certainly came in the 2001 season. You could argue the snow kick. You could clearly argue the Super Bowl. Heck, you could argue Mo Lewis collapsing Drew Bledsoe’s lung.
But please, for the sake of your sanity, just let the Tuck Rule go. It does not deserve as much coverage as it has gotten in the years to follow. If you want to “blame” anyone for getting this Patriots party started, blame Vinatieri. Blame the snow kick.Martin Richard Foundation Holds 4th Annual MR8K Race In Boston On Saturday
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.