Opponent: Oakland Raiders
Location: Foxboro Stadium
Final Score: 16-13
The aptly-named "Snow Bowl" was the best and last game played at the old Foxboro Stadium.
The Patriots were riding the hot arm of Tom Brady, who, as a first-year starter, went 11-3 to give the Patriots a bye week in the playoffs.
They hosted the Oakland Raiders, who had handily dispatched the New York Jets the previous week.
The game is now known as the "Snow Bowl" because the two teams battled out an epic match in heavy snow.
That the Patriots were favored by three points over the Raiders made no difference in the first half of the game. With both offenses stultified in the first half by the snow, the Raiders were able to muster one offensive touchdown early in the second quarter to give themselves a 7-0 lead going into the half.
The Patriots struck back in the third quarter with a field goal to narrow the Raiders' lead, but Oakland promptly responded, scoring two field goals of its own in a span of 3:30, to give the Raiders a 13-3 lead going into the fourth quarter.
That's when fortunes changed. Tom Brady led the Patriots from their own 33-yard line to the Raiders' 6-yard line in the middle of the fourth quarter. He then rushed up the middle to score a touchdown and cut the Raider lead to 13-10.
What happened next has gone down in the history books. With just 1:50 left in the game and the Patriots on the Raiders' 42-yard line with a 1st-and-10, Brady dropped back to pass. He moved his arm forward and appeared to "tuck" the ball back into his body, but was stripped by Charles Woodson of the Raiders.
Initially ruled a fumble, which was recovered by the Raiders, referee Walt Coleman overturned the call and called it an incomplete pass, citing the "Tuck Rule" as the reason.
The call gave new life to the Patriots, who would almost certainly have lost without it. On the next play, Brady completed a 13-yard pass to David Patten to set up the Patriots in field goal range. After just another yard gained, Vinatieri lined up for a 45-yard kick and drilled it home to knot the score up at 13-13, and send the game into overtime.
In the extra session, the Patriots started with the ball and never gave the Raiders a chance. Brady drove his team from the New England 34-yard line to the Oakland 5 to give Vinatieri another chance. This time, from 23 yards away, his successful kick clinched the game and sent the Patriots to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship game.
Not only was this an amazing game, played in treacherous conditions, but it was the most pivotal game in the history of the franchise. Had the "Tuck Rule" not been called, things might look very different in New England right now. At the very least, the Patriots would have one less Super Bowl title.