Tom Brady enjoyed a phenomenal 20 seasons with the New England Patriots. With a tenure that long, the future Hall of Fame quarterback made countless memories with the franchise. The “Tuck Rule” game was one of the most memorable moments in Brady’s entire NFL career.
The rule not only changed how referees call the game, but it also altered the trajectory of TB12’s career, according to the man himself.
Tom Brady says he’d be Drew Bledsoe’s backup if not for the ‘Tuck Rule’
The term “Tuck Rule” originated from the 2001 AFC Divisional Round playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders.
The Patriots were down 13-10 with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady dropped back for a pass. Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson hit Brady as he pumped the football and brought it back into his body.
The result of the play appeared to be a fumble recovered by the defense. However, officials ruled it an incomplete pass. New England went on to win the game 16-13 in overtime and ultimately beat the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
ESPN recently aired a 30 for 30 documentary surrounding the iconic game, and Brady had some interesting things to say about the impact of the Tuck Rule.
“I’m probably the backup QB going into 2002,” Brady said per NBC Sports Boston‘s Jake Levin. “I’m not the starter if we lose that game.”
No one knows for sure if Bill Belichick would’ve turned back to Drew Bledsoe for the 2002 season, but it’s safe to say everything worked out for the Patriots in the end.
Bledsoe wouldn’t have been the long-term answer at QB
Tom Brady played for a well-known college football program at the University of Michigan. Still, it seems as if he came out of nowhere.
The sixth-round draft pick took over for then-starter Drew Bledsoe after a vicious hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis in Week 2 of the 2001 season. TB12 stepped in as a raw talent, but he played well enough for the Patriots to make the postseason.
The Tuck Rule game just so happened to be Brady’s playoff debut, so that game would’ve likely been memorable for him anyway. He didn’t do anything spectacular, but Bill Belichick didn’t need him to. The San Mateo, California native played his role, and New England won the Super Bowl as a result.
Belichick and the front office obviously liked what they saw from Brady enough that they traded Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills. In return, the Patriots got a 2003 first-round pick, which turned into defensive lineman Ty Warren.
Bledsoe put together a strong 2002 season in Buffalo, but he was out of the league by 2006. Whereas Tom Brady eventually became the GOAT, leading New England to six Super Bowl victories.
Why the 2001 Divisional Round win over the Raiders was a turning point for the Patriots
People will remember the infamous Tuck Rule game for many reasons.
The reversal of the ruling from a fumble to an incomplete pass shifted the way officials called games. It was a brutal beat for the Oakland Raiders, who thought they had done everything to win the game. On the other side, the game seemed to fuel the New England Patriots franchise for the next 18 seasons.
When Tom Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe, the strength of the Patriots was dominant defense and a solid running game. While Bill Belichick didn’t ask much of Brady during his first playoff run, the team planted seeds for what was coming next.
The playoff experience so early in his career proved invaluable for the 15-time Pro Bowl quarterback. He took what came his way and built on that success in the following seasons.
Brady’s emergence helped form a dynasty in New England. The Patriots made the playoffs in 16 of the 18 seasons TB12 began as the starter. The franchise won six Super Bowls with him under center, with Brady winning MVP honors in five of those games.
Sure, luck might have bounced New England’s way in 2001, but the game turned out to be way more pivotal than anyone could’ve imagined.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.