By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — Football history can be altered all sorts of ways by all sorts of people. And surely, one of the most significant moments in football history this millennium involved Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and NFL referee Walt Coleman.
That moment, of course, came to be known as The Tuck Rule Game, after Oakland’s Charles Woodson stripped the ball from Brady at a snowy Foxboro Stadium during the divisional round of the 2001 playoffs. The play appeared to have abruptly ended the promising season for the upstart Patriots, behind second-year head coach Bill Belichick and Brady, the first-year starter.
Alas, Coleman emerged from going under the hood to announce to the giddy Foxboro crowd that the ruling on the field had been changed, thanks to a little known part of the rulebook known as the tuck rule.
The rest is history.
Now 17 years later, Coleman was back in Foxboro — albeit a few hundred feet away from the old field — to officiate the final game of his NFL career.
And after the game — which the Patriots won over the Jets, 38-3 — Brady made sure to head toward Coleman to wish him well upon retirement.
Of course, given the dominance of the Patriots over the NFL for the 15-plus years that followed that fateful night in Foxboro, it’s fair to surmise that Brady’s and Belichick’s teams would have risen to the top of the league even if that 2001 season ended that snowy night in January 2002. But, with that proper application of a rule on the books, Coleman and Brady will forever remained tied in football history.