Oakland Raiders fans will never forget the Snow Bowl where officials decided to start enforcing a rule that the majority of NFL fans had never even heard of let alone seen called in a game. The infamous tuck rule. With less than two minutes remaining in the 2002 Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, the New England Patriots were trailing the Oakland Raiders by three points. As Tom Brady was driving down the field, Charles Woodson came on a cornerback blitz, tagging Brady and knocking the ball loose.
After the Raiders recovered the ball, the game seemed all but over. Then, the play was ruled to be a forward pass rather than a fumble as the referee cited the tuck rule stating that Brady was in the process of tucking the ball when he fumbled it, making it an incomplete forward pass. The Patriots kept the ball and went on to win the game on two Adam Vinateri field goals.
Now, 9 years later and Tom Brady and the Patriots will be playing in Oakland this weekend against a team whose coaching staff is littered with veterans of the Snow Bowl.
Raiders new defensive coordinator, Chuck Bresnahan, really isn't that new to the Raiders. Bresnahan was the defensive coordinator for the Raiders when the Snow Bowl occurred. It was Bresnahan who dialed up the Charles Woodson blitz that looked as though it had won the game for the Raiders.
Raiders linebackers coach, Greg Biekert, was one of the Raiders' starting linebackers in the Snow Bowl, and was the player who recovered the fumble after Charles Woodson put the hit on Tom Brady.
Finally, Raiders offensive line coach, Steve Wisniewski, was a starting guard for the Raiders in that game. And, as it turns out, that was the last game of Steve Wisniewski's career, as he decided to hang up the cleats that off season.
At the time of the Snow Bowl, most thought that the Raiders were destined for the Super Bowl. Instead, it marked the end of the Jon Gruden era in Oakland, and two years later the Raiders started one of the worst stretches in Raiders history.
Now, as the Raiders are finally beginning to return to the high level of performance expected by team owner Al Davis, they face a crucial game against the Patriots, who since the tuck rule game, have continued to be one of the NFL's best teams. With the Patriots still being led by the man most Raiders fans have come to associate (in a very negative way) with the Snow Bowl, this game has added importance to it.
Now, I am sure the members of the Raiders coaching staff who were a part of the Snow Bowl have moved on and likely do not hold the same kind of resentment towards the Patriots that the Raiders fans still do. However, at the same time, I can't help but think they have at least a little added motivation to push their players to do well this weekend against the Patriots.
I cannot wait to see if Bresnahan decides to dial up a lot of blitzes in order to harass Tom Brady on Sunday. While it would be a wise strategy considering that Brady does have troubles making plays when he is forced to flush out of the pocket, getting a few licks in on Brady would certainly make a lot of people feel better about the Snow Bowl, even nine years later.
Personal Note: When writing about the Raiders, I do my best to remain open minded and not be the type of homer that only sees the good and fails to acknowledge the bad. I try my best to be impartial and not let my feelings show up too much in my writing. This, I must say, was incredibly difficult to do with this subject. The Snow Bowl occurred on the night of my Winter Ball in high school. After listening to the end of the game on our drive in to the dance, I refused to leave the car for well over an hour as my date and friends went into the dance. Needless to say, that night did not go well for me for a number of reasons, not just the Snow Bowl. To this day, I still hold a grudge against Tom Brady (yes, I do know it wasn't his fault, but what fun would being a sports fan be if you cant irrationally hate other teams and players?). So let me just take this opportunity to send a message to Tom Brady.
Tom, I know people think you are one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, but in my book, you will forever be that a**hole who stole greatness from the Raiders and caused my virginity to last longer than it probably should have. That's right, I said it, Tom Brady cock blocked me and I will never forgive him for it.