What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. Tuck Rule
A play that lives in infamy, at least for Oakland Raiders fans. On a snowy night for the 2001 AFC Divisional playoffs, the Patriots were down 13-10 at home to Oakland, with under two minutes to play. On a first-down play from the Raiders’ 42, Tom Brady’s former Michigan teammate, Charles Woodson, strip-sacked him, untouched on a corner blitz. Brady lost the ball, the Raiders’ Greg Biekert fell on it and it looked like the Patriots were done. But referee Walt Coleman’s crew determined that Brady was in the process of passing the ball when he lost it, invoking the little-used tuck rule. The play went down as an incomplete pass, Brady completed a 13-yard pass to David Patten to get New England in field-goal range, and Adam Vinatieri made a 45-yard field goal despite the wintry conditions to tie the game. Vinatieri hit a 23-yard kick in overtime for the win. Coleman hasn’t officiated a Raiders game since, and the NFL voted to repeal the tuck rule in 2013.
4. The arrival of Robert Kraft
Robert Kraft grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, and as he says often, spent many Sunday afternoons freezing with his sons on the metal bleachers at the New England Patriots old home stadium as a season ticket holder. Through a series of savvy business moves, Kraft first bought the harness racing track next to the stadium, then more land around the stadium, and then the stadium itself. In 1994, then-Patriots owner James Orthwein offered Kraft $75 million to buy out the remainder of the team’s lease at the stadium, because Orthwein wanted to move the team to St. Louis. Kraft turned Orthwein down and instead offered a then-NFL record $175 million to buy the team outright; the sale was finalized on Jan. 21, 1994. While he toyed with the idea of moving the Patriots to Hartford, Connecticut, Kraft kept them in Foxboro, built a new stadium largely with his own money, and under his stewardship, New England has made the playoffs 18 times in 24 years, making seven Super Bowl appearances and winning five.
3. Super Bowl LI comeback
28-3. Or, as it read on the Fox graphic, 3-28. With 8:31 left in the third quarter of Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons seemed headed for their first-ever championship. New England began to come back, which wasn’t too surprising, but 25 points was an almost impossible hole to dig out of. A touchdown late in the third, a field goal early in the fourth, but the Patriots were still down, 28-12 with 9:44 to play. The game turned on third-and-1 from the Atlanta 36 when New England’s Dont’a Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan, the Patriots recovered, and Tom Brady got the ball at the Atlanta 25. Five plays later, they had another touchdown, and after a successful two-point conversion, they were within eight points. New England won in overtime, completing the most incredible comeback in Super Bowl history.
2. Adam Vinatieri’s Super Bowl winner (No. 1)
The Patriots have had a lot of great on-field moments over the last 15 or so years, but their win over the St. Louis Rams – the Greatest Show on Turf – in Super Bowl XXXVI started a dynasty, in a league that’s not supposed to have dynasties. New England, with Tom Brady starting just his 17th game, in his second season, was a historic underdog (14 points) in the eyes of Las Vegas. But the Patriots’ defense had one mandate above all that night: hit Rams star back Marshall Faulk on every single snap, and the offense just needed to play as mistake-free as possible. When St. Louis tied the game at 17-17 with just 90 seconds to play, New England had no timeouts, and broadcaster John Madden said it should play for overtime. Brady, however, had other ideas. He completed 5-of-8 passes, including a 23-yarder to Troy Brown, and when he walked off the field with just seconds left on the clock, it was for Adam Vinatieri to line up for a 48-yard field goal. Vinatieri made it, and New Englanders, who had supported a largely hapless franchise for years, got to celebrate at last.
1. Drafting Tom Brady
It is comical now. The greatest quarterback the league has ever seen, the man for whom no moment has ever seemed too big, could only watch as 198 players, six of them quarterbacks, were taken before him in the 2000 NFL draft. He was skinny, he was slow, he’d had to fight for his job as a senior at Michigan after a highly recruited freshman (Drew Henson) hit campus. Not long after the Patriots took him 199th, Brady passed Kraft in one of the hallways in the team facility.
“I know you,” Kraft said, “you’re the quarterback we drafted.”
“Yes,” Brady replied, “and I’m the best decision this team has ever made.”
The kid never lacked in confidence. And he was right.