In New England, it’s known as the Snow Bowl. Outside the region, it goes by a different name: the Tuck Rule Game.
Exactly 15 years ago Thursday, the Patriots defeated the Oakland Raiders in the final game at Foxboro Stadium, winning 16-13 in overtime, thanks to two clutch field goals by Adam Vinatieri and one of the most controversial calls in NFL history.
The win, which came in the second season of coach Bill Belichick’s and quarterback Tom Brady’s Patriots tenures, sent New England to the AFC Championship Game for just the third time in franchise history. One week after that, they upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI to launch a dynasty that remains dominant to this day.
It all started with one ruling on that snow-covered field in Foxboro — the so-called “tuck rule,” which since has been abolished. The obscure rulebook wrinkle prevented Charles Woodson from forcing what would have been a game-sealing fumble and allowed Brady, playing in his first career playoff game, to continue his march toward a game-tying score.
Five plays later, Vinatieri kicked arguably the most memorable field goal of his illustrious Patriots career, booting a 45-yard line drive through a raging blizzard to send the game to overtime. Another 23-yard field goal eight-and-a-half minutes into the extra session won the game for the Patriots and sent Jon Gruden’s stunned Raiders squad home empty-handed.
Despite the conditions, Brady threw the ball 52 times in that game, completing 32 passes for 312 yards. He used his legs to score New England’s lone touchdown, however, rumbling into the end zone from 6 yards out midway through the fourth quarter. It was the first rushing touchdown of his career.
This Sunday, the Patriots will play in their 11th AFC title game of the Belichick/Brady era, hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium for the right to advance to Super Bowl LI.