The Tuck Rule Simulation from From image

NFL Divisional Playoffs: The Tuck Rule Revisited

Raider Nation rejoices in convincing win over Pats

By Ryan Fowler -
January 12th, 2011

Never before had NFL fans been so well-versed in the rule book. For years, those bleeding Patriots red, white and blue and Raiders black and silver were comfortable with referees making a holding call here, a pass interference call there, a face mask here and false start there. If the zebras were to miss a call, those officials seated in Section 201 were just as quick with a four-letter bomb voicing their displeasure.

Then as if those loyal to New England and Oakland had instantly turned Rhodes scholar - ready to study four years at Oxford - these same fans were dropping NFL Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2 with elitist conviction. Whoever had the sense to deem Tom Brady's non-fumble the "Tuck Rule" should be commended. We could have lost a lot of passionate fans in a war of words.

<a href="" target="_new" title="">WhatIfSports: 'Tuck Rule' game</a>

It's within the snow globe that was Foxboro Stadium where would like to shake things up and create its own whiteout conditions. We want to wipe the box score clean and replay the controversial divisional playoff game to see whether the best team won.

Before we dive into 2001 statistics, I must first tip my cap to Bill Belichick and Brady. Now before you fire off a "you Patriot-loving, East Coast bias mother-lover" heated e-mail, hear me out. I understand the majority of the country would rather listen to a dentist's drill than another journalist wax poetic about Belichick and Brady. But to illustrate how quickly the NFL cycles through talent, while these two remain the pillars of the Patriots organization nine years later, know guys like Anthony "A-Train" Thomas (Offensive Rookie of the Year), Garrison Hearst (Comeback Player of the Year) and David Boston (pass receiving yards) were recognized following the 2001 season.

Using our NFL simulation engine, we replayed the "Tuck Rule Game" game 1,001 times, with the Raiders winning 70.4 percent of the time by an average score of 27-20.

"The Tuck Rule" 1001 Simulations
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
2001 Oakland Raiders70.427Sample Box Score
@ 2001 New England Patriots29.620Simulate Game

New England adopted a "bend, but don't break" defensive philosophy in 2001. The Pats ranked 19th in rushing defense (115.9 yards per game) and 24th in pass defense (218.6 ypg), yet somehow managed the sixth-best scoring defense (17.0 points per game) en route to their 11-5 regular-season record. Unlike his crew in Tampa Bay, Jon Gruden's Raiders were an offensive threat (24.9 ppg) during their 10-6 campaign. Oakland's pass defense was ranked ninth (192.7 ypg) and rush defense 22nd (124.5 ypg).

As we've become conditioned to expect, Brady flipped the statistical script and lit up the Raiders' secondary for 312 yards on 52 attempts. Running back Antowain Smith collected 65 yards on the ground. Rich Gannon (159 pass yards, one touchdown) and the Raiders (230 total offensive yards) were efficient (zero turnovers) in the snow but not as explosive as their wild card win over the Jets a week earlier, when they racked up a season-high 502 yards of total offense.

Snow Motion

Rich Gannon Gannon finished with 159 yards/TD vs NEW

Game Recap

By clicking the link above, you'll be taken to a sample "Tuck Rule" re-simulation box score. The game recap is one of the unique features our sophisticated simulation engine provides. You too can generate a complete box score with play-by-play by simulating any game using our NFL SimMatchup tool.

No question, the blustery conditions inside Foxboro Stadium slowed the offensive pace of the Raiders and Patriots. Our NFL simulation engine allowed us to nearly duplicate the weather both teams faced during the game (30 degrees, moderate snowfall and 10-mph winds).

Mr. Raider himself, Tim Brown, got Oakland off to a fast start. On the game's third play, the Heisman Trophy winner ran a go route, and Gannon hit him in stride. The 67-yard touchdown, a minute into the game, set the tone for the Raiders and put the Patriots in an early hole. Reliable kicker Sebastian Janikowski (23 of 28 FG in 2002) booted a 47-yard field goal on Oakland's second possession. The Raiders led 10-0 after one quarter.

Oakland punter Shane Lechler pinned the Patriots back inside their ten yard line at the start of the second quarter. Facing a third and 10 from their own 7, Brady dropped back to pass, but before he could get rid of the ball, Regan Upshaw tackled him in the end zone for a safety. The Raiders parlayed that into three more points following Janikowski's second field goal of the game. Trailing 15-0, the Patriots needed a score. Brady ran the two-minute drill so well it took him only 28 seconds to move the ball 76 yards, culminating in a 9-yard touchdown pass to David Patten. However, for the pass-oriented Raiders offense, the 73 seconds Brady left on the clock was just enough time for Janikowski to get into field-goal range and hand Oakland an 18-7 lead at halftime.

Three double-digit plays and a 2-yard burst by Smith brought the Patriots to within four, not even three minutes into the third quarter. Not amused, Gannon and the Raiders offense assembled an eight-play touchdown drive, Brown's second of the game, which gutted nearly five minutes off the clock and pushed Oakland's lead back to 11. Janikowski, as he has so many times before, earned his paycheck by converting his fourth field-goal attempt later in the quarter to make it 28-14.

J.R. Redmond scored for New England at the beginning of the fourth to cut the Raiders' lead to seven. However, with two opportunities to lead fourth-quarter drives, Brady was picked off by Oakland. The second interception proved to be the backbreaker, with Charlie Garner picking up a first down and Gannon taking a knee to end it. The Raiders won it 28-21.

The tuck rule's quick rise to fame, catchy moniker and impression on pop culture remind me of Justin Bieber's career because according to our NFL simulation engine the Raiders, along with society, have been robbed of something.

You too, can generate a complete box score with play-by-play by simulating any game using our NFL SimMatchup tool.

Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for He can be reached at

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