MORE THAN A decade ago, the Oakland Raiders went into Foxboro Stadium and utterly dominated the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots for more than three quarters of their AFC playoff game.
Despite there being five inches of snow on the field, the west coast Raiders held a 13-10 lead with less than two minutes left in the game.
Brady, who almost missed the encounter after getting stuck in traffic, was unsure what play to call so went to the sideline to get advice from his offensive co-ordinator Charlie Weis.
What the young QB didn’t know was that Raiders cornerback Eric Allen was lurking near the New England side of the field and heard the play; the Patriots were going to go 3x1 and throw the slant to the backside.
Essentially, this meant that Brady would throw to his left, to the first receiver in his progression. Knowing this information, the Raiders dropped a linebacker onto the slant route, taking away the play. At the same time, Charles Woodson charged unseen at Brady from the QB’s right, which forced a fumble and turnover and the Raiders went on to win the game and ultimately the 2002 Super Bowl.
Except they didn’t. Why?
Well mostly because Walt Coleman, the head referee for the game, ruled — after a replay — that Brady hadn’t fumbled the ball but rather hilariously had thrown an incomplete forward pass. The infamous ‘tuck rule’. Coleman based his decision on NFL Rule Three, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2 which states “When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.”
With 27 seconds left, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal to tie the game. Eventually, the Patriots kicked the game winning field goal in overtime and went on to win the Super Bowl that year.
I bring up this story for two reasons. Firstly, the Philadelphia Eagles benefited greatly from a very similar call this weekend to beat the Baltimore Ravens and move to 2-0 for the first time since 2004.
With just two minutes left, Vick was hit by Haloti Ngata and ruled to have fumbled the ball, a fumble the Ravens recovered. However, once again after replay, the officials decided it was actually an incomplete forward pass and Vick scored the game winning touchdown on the very next play. What I didn’t understand in 2002 and what I don’t understand in 2012 is why — if it was ruled an incomplete forward pass — were Tom Brady and Michael Vick not penalised 10 yards for ‘intentional grounding.’
Both QBs were in the pocket, both had, according to the tuck rule, intentional forward movement of their arm and neither pass went beyond the line of scrimmage. By its very definition, that’s intentional grounding, a ten yard penalty and loss of down. Instead, both plays went unpenalised. The second reason I bring up the ‘tuck rule’ is that Oakland — its franchise and fans (myself included) — have been living off that game for years.
Were the Raiders hard done by? Of course they were. What is never talked about, however, is how the Oakland defence gave up two field goals in two possessions to lose to a team they had dominated for over fifty minutes.
And since 2002, the Raiders defence have been almost exclusively awful. Indeed, here is their roll of shame:
Year – Rank (of 32)
2003 – 30
2004 – 30
2005 – 27
2006 – 3 – Despite this the Raiders won just two games all season
2007 – 22
2008 – 27
2009 – 26
2010 – 11
2011 – 29
So there you have it. Once in 10 years have the Raiders finished in the top ten in defence and that year they had the worst record in the NFL and used their number one pick on JaMarcus Russell. That worked out well didn’t it? Yesterday, Reggie Bush and Brian Hartline made the Raiders defence look as if they’d never played football before, let alone played together. It was disheartening stuff, especially as the team have their first defensively-minded head coach since John Madden in Dennis Allen.
Allen could turn things around as he has time on his side as the youngest head coach in the NFL and the Black and Silver have some talented young players.
However, I fear it’ll be more like trying to change the iceberg’s course than the Titanic’s.
Game of the week
It wasn’t pretty if you like certain aspects of the game like defending, but Eli Manning and Josh Freeman put on an air show in the Medowlands on Sunday. This game was close right through to the final whistle, which itself was mired in controversy.
Play of the week
Ed Reed is a future Hall of Fame safety. To see anyone do this to him, never mind a 6’ 4” tight end, is impressive.
Take a bow Brent Celek.
Chicago Bears 10 @ Green Bay Packers 23
Kansas City Chiefs 17 @ Buffalo Bills 35
Cleveland Browns 27 @ Cincinnati Bengals 34
Minnesota Vikings 20 @ Indianapolis Colts 23
Houston Texans 27 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 7
Oakland Raiders 13 @ Miami Dolphins 35
Arizona Cardinals 20 @ New England Patriots 18
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 @ New York Giants 41
Baltimore Ravens 23 @ Philadelphia Eagles 24
Dallas Cowboys 7 @ Seattle Seahawks 27
Washington Redskins 28 @ St. Louis Rams 31
New York Jets 10 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 27
Tennessee Titans 10 @ San Diego Chargers 38
Detroit Lions 19 @ San Francisco 49ers 27