Oakland Raiders-New England Patriots "Tuck Rule" Anniversary

After yet another disappointing finish to the season for my Oakland Raiders this year, I sit here once again watching the NFL postseason with only the festivities of Super Bowl week to look forward to. But the divisional round of the playoffs always brings about a bitter taste in my mouth, regardless of whether the Raiders are there or not.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the infamous “Tuck Rule” game in which the New England Patriots defeated my Raiders in overtime en route to their first ever Super Bowl title.

I’ll be the first to admit that I do not remember the whole game or even the whole game in its entirety clearly off of the top of my head. Can you blame me? I was only 9 years old at the time.

The fact is that I’ve seen enough replays and have discussed that game with fellow Raider fans more than I’ve discussed most subjects throughout my school career. Had that call gone the Raiders way, one first down and the game was over.

That game forever changed the NFl as we know it. The Patriots won their first Super Bowl that year, and went on to create a dynasty with three Super Bowl wins in four years. More than that, that game created the Tom Brady era, creating his meteoric rise to the top of NFL quarterbacks.

But what if the Raiders had won that game? Could that have been their dynasty? Could they have made it to the Super Bowl to win their fourth title? Yes, the Raiders did make the Super Bowl the very next year but were thrashed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading them into the seemingly great depression they are trying to snap out of.

It was one of, if not the most controversial play in NFL postseason history. Even with the help of instant replay, the play was still one of the toughest calls any referee will ever have to make.

You cannot fault the referees for anything they did. They made what they thought was the correct call according to the rules, they were doing their job. Even if there was a mistake made on the play, referees are only human and mistakes are bound to happen.

Both sides could present cases to prove it was a fumble or an incomplete pass, but the fact is that it was up to the referees discretion, and in this case it just happened to go against the Raiders.

Patriots fans will be the first to say that he was bringing his arm forward, thus making it an incomplete pass. There is no doubt about it that his arm was indeed moving forward.

However, Raiders fans first argument will be that it was a pump fake. Regardless of whether it would have been an intended pass or a pump fake, if his arm was moving forward, it would be an incomplete pass.

Instant replay helps us show that there was more to it than just a normal pump fake. His arm had slowed down and he had grabbed the ball with his free hand. It was brief, as he was immediately hit by the Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson, and recovered by then linebacker Greg Biekert.

[caption id="attachment_151" align="alignleft" width="254" caption="Tom Brady (right) pump fakes while he is about to be hit by Charles Woodson. Photo courtesy of www.oakland-raider.com"][/caption]

The “Tuck Rule” as stated by the NFL is as follows:

NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player 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. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.

The rule is very clear, there is no gray area about the rule. However, there is gray area on the play. Many would say that Brady is trying to tuck the ball into his body, thus making it an incomplete pass by rule. However, replays show that, though only for a brief second, Brady had his second hand on the ball, thus making it tucked into his body.

There is much debate about whether it was a fumble or an incomplete pass. The referees did the best job they could and referee Walt Coleman made what he believed was the right call. He cannot be faulted for trying to do his job, as not all calls go the way of everyone’s favorite team.

The referees could not have known that Brady would go 8-8 for 45 yards in overtime of his first ever playoff game and not even give Rich Gannon and the Raiders offense another chance to see the field.

This is not the first time the Raiders have been involved in a controversial game, however. This game brought back another tough memory for Raider fans, known as “The Immaculate Reception.”

In 1972, the Raiders met then hated-rival Pittsburgh Steelers in another AFC divisional game. Terry Bradshaw, under pressure from the Raiders, threw a pass intended for halfback John Fuqua. Raiders safety Jack Tatum delivered a hit just as the ball arrived, sending the ball flying backward where it was caught by Franco Harris and eventually ran the ball in for a touchdown.

The controversy on the play is who touched the ball first, Tatum or Fuqua? In 1972, the rule stated that once an offensive player touches a pass, he is the only offensive player eligible to catch the pass. However, if is touched first or simultaneously by the defensive player, every offensive player is eligible.

This play was in the time before instant replay, so they could not review the play to see who actually had touched the ball first. They decided to let the play stand, and the Steelers went on to win 12-7, costing the Raiders a chance at another Super Bowl Title.

So I sat on my couch and watched another year of the divisional playoffs. I thought to myself that the Raiders could have been there had it not been for a defense that was known for not being able to hold a lead, and listened to all the hype of “Tebow Time” and “Tebowmania.”

I couldn’t help but think that had the Raiders finished their season strong, they could have had a rematch with Brady and the Patriots. I thought to myself, “Maybe it could have been different without the snow.”

After seeing Brady tie a record for passing touchdowns in a single postseason game, I said to myself that maybe it was better we didn’t make it. It would have been nice to be in the playoffs again, but this wasn’t the year for a rematch. Well, there’s always next year.

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