The Play(er) that Won Super Bowl XLII

Stephen HennesseyCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2008


It all came down to one play.

With 200 million people watching, the fate of a dynasty, the result of the biggest game and the changing of a legendary rule.

It was January 19, 2002 and is remembered most notably for a ton of snow and a turn of professional football. 

The Oakland Raiders were fighting the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Playoff, for a chance to make the Super Bowl. It looked as though the Raiders were going to defeat the Pats at Foxboro, in the ideal elements, to advance to earn a spot in NFL's biggest game.

Then, in the fourth quarter with the Raiders up three, Tom Brady appeared to fumble the ball as he was hit by Charles Woodson. Oakland pounced on the ball, and believed they were on its way to play St. Louis in the Super Bowl.

Did anyone foresee this play having such a dramatic impact on the NFL?

The play was, of course, reversed, giving New England the ball back, and allowing Adam Vinateri to hit a field goal to send them to Super Bowl XXXVI. The play established what is known today as the "tuck rule." The play is one of the most controversial in sports history.

Yet, at the end of the second quarter of Super Bowl XLII, the NFL rulebook was re-written. An unfathomable coincidence was a perfect turning point to one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time. 

It all came down to one play.

With 22 seconds on the clock and New England driving, Brady stepped back to pass but was met by a menacing pass rush. Who met the quarterback first?

None other than Justin Tuck.

It's only fitting that the turning point of the Patriots dynasty from 2001-02 to 2006-07 was reversed by a player whose name is the actual role and key to their success.

Tuck forced a fumble on his rush, resulting in a fumble recovery by Osi Umenyiora.

This time, the officials did not overturn the fumble.

Going into the half only trailing 7-3, the Giants combined the necessary elements of their game plan, and defeated the previously undefeated Patriots.

The win marks the end of dynasty rule, an attempt at an undefeated season, but most importantly, the reversal of a rule the Oakland Raiders saw implemented six years ago.

The New York Giants can now rejoice...thanks to Justin Tuck.