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The famous "tuck" game.
You can pin the start of all the hatred of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to a specific moment in time, and it wasn't even their fault. It was caused by a crucial fourth-quarter play, an admittedly stupid rule and the correct interpretation of said stupid rule.
The Patriots—after a stunning 10-2 finish to a season that started out 1-3—hosted the Oakland Raiders on January 19, 2002 in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
Oakland held the lead 13-3, entering the fourth quarter in a driving snowstorm. The conditions were awful, and the chances for a heroic comeback from a first-year starter seemed minimal at best.
Trailing by 10 and with time quickly becoming a factor, Brady took the ball with 12:29 remaining and marched the team down the field in one of those clutch drives that can only be described as epic.
He completed all nine of his passes for 61 yards and capped it off by running it in from six yards out to cut the lead to 13-10.
The teams would then trade possessions, and with 2:06 remaining, Brady and the Pats would get it back and embark on a drive that—to this day—generates vitriol and hatred amongst many NFL fans. (But hey, Oakland did get to the Super Bowl the following season).
With less than two minutes to play, Charles Woodson sacked Brady as he was bringing the ball back toward his chest, forcing what appeared to be a fumble. The fumble was recovered by Oakland, and the game appeared to be over. But the referees ruled that due to the "tuck rule," Brady—since his hand had moved forward—was in the process of passing. Thus, the play was an incomplete pass, not a fumble.
Taking advantage of the call, Adam Vinatieri kicked a clutch 45-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, where Brady would get the ball first and complete all eight of his passes to set up another game-winning field goal.
Oakland would only run one offensive play after the disputed call, and while you can hate on the rule all you wish, it's hard to deny Brady's clutch performance.
Deficit: Raiders 13, Patriots 3 (Start of fourth quarter)
Final Score: Patriots 16, Raiders 13 (OT)