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Thursday, January 19, 2012
Happy 10th birthday, Tuck Rule game

By ESPNBoston.com

http://espn.go.com/boston/

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the "Tuck Rule" game (Jan. 19, 2001), which essentially ushered in an era of Patriots dominance in the NFL. In that spirit, we look back at that fateful, snowy AFC divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Raiders. It was the last, and most memorable, game played at Foxboro Stadium. (Note, this blog entry originally posted last week)

A few highlights from Greg Garber's story, which is told by those who lived it:

The Patriots, trailing 13-10, take over on their own 46 with 2:06 left. They had crossed the 50 and were close to field goal territory with less than two minutes remaining when Charles Woodson appeared to strip Brady of the football. Ruled a fumble, the Raiders recovered and the Patriots' season appeared to be over.

Walt Coleman (game referee): "There wasn't much conversation with the other officials because everybody's looking at something different. Nobody sees the action of the quarterback except me. Based on what I saw and the information that I had, I ruled it as a fumble. If you ruled it incomplete you could not correct that with replay. That's basically just the way we were trained."

The booth buzzed down and asked for a replay.

Walt Coleman: "The shot he gave me was from the front, which gave me a clear look at exactly what happened on the play. And what it showed is Brady's arm's coming forward. And Woodson hits him and the ball falls out of his hand. And that's clearly an incomplete forward pass. It was easy."

Brady completes a 13-yard pass to David Patten and, after two incomplete passes, runs for 1 yard to the Oakland 28. Patriots place-kicker Adam Vinatieri lines up the game-tying 45-yard field goal with less than a minute left in regulation.

Adam Vinatieri: "You think, 'Oh, my gosh, we've got a chance to tie this thing.' But it's a 45-yarder and there's three, four inches of snow on the field -- with the game on the line. You had pretty much everything working against you, degree-of-difficulty-wise. For me, it was not thinking of all the external things. It was, 'You've got to kick a ball better than you've ever kicked it. It's got to be above the line of scrimmage, and it's got to be straight.'"

Tedy Bruschi: "When his foot hit that ball, I saw a snow explosion like off of the ground, like just a 'poof!' of snow. The wind, the snow, so many things that made that probably the most difficult clutch kick in the history of the NFL."

The Patriots win the overtime coin flip and drive from their 34-yard line to the Oakland 5 in 14 plays.

Damien Woody: "We went up to Adam, we asked him, 'Where are you going to be kicking the ball from?' He pointed out the spot and we just started clearing a path for him."

Adam Vinatieri: "My holder and I are trying to kick as much snow out of the way as possible and the offensive linemen were sweeping and sweeping. Oakland calls a timeout to ice the kicker. I think it helped us out. We cleared a pretty decent spot. At least my footing was better for that one. Game winners in playoff games are never easy. They have a whole different feel. But after making the best kick of my life, I felt like I just couldn't miss that night. That one went right down the middle and it was over. That was fun."

Vinatieri, 8:29 into overtime, kicks a 23-yard field goal to win the game 16-13. The Patriots went on to beat the Steelers in the AFC title game and the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

What are your memories of that fateful game? Share them in our comments section.