From Michigan teammates to NFL opponents, Tom Brady and Charles Woodson were linked for most of their football careers. In the NFL, they will forever be connected by the famous “tuck rule” play in the 2001 Divisional Round, which the two reconvened to discuss as part of a new ESPN “30 for 30” special.
The episode first aired last weekend, mere weeks after the 20th anniversary of the game, which is also famous for Adam Vinatieri’s clutch field goals through heavy snow in the fourth quarter and overtime that powered the Patriots to victory.
The game itself stands out in Patriots history for a multitude of reasons, from the weather to being the final game played at Foxboro Stadium. It’s often cited as the beginning of the Patriots dynasty.
As part of the new “30 for 30,” players such as Brady, Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi admitted to having no previous knowledge of the rule that saved their season. But of course, one of the few people who says he knew this little-known rule was Bill Belichick, who sounds like he had it down cold at the time.
Of course, the tuck rule gave the Pats another chance, and Brady took advantage by leading multiple drives to set up Vinatieri’s clutch kicks. But even Brady himself might believe deep down inside that he fumbled. When jokingly reenacting the play as part of “30 for 30,” Brady misspoke and claimed that Woodson’s hit was a fumble before restating the tuck rule.
Brady recognized the impact of this play and its role in shaping his career from that point forward.
“I’m probably the backup QB going into 2002 [if the fumble was upheld],” Brady says in the documentary.
The game gave Brady his first playoff win and led to New England’s first Super Bowl title with a 20-17 win over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. And it all started with arguably the most infamous rule in sports history.
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