2002 NFL Season
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2002 NFL Season
2002 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 5 - December 30, 2002
Start date January 4, 2003
AFC Champions Oakland Raiders
NFC Champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Super Bowl XXXVII
Date January 26, 2003
Site Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
Champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pro Bowl
Date February 2, 2003
Site Aloha Stadium

The 2002 NFL season was the 83rd regular season of the National Football League.

The league went back to an even number of teams, expanding to 32 teams with the addition of the Houston Texans. The clubs were then realigned into eight divisions, four teams in each. Also, the Chicago Bears played the 2002 season in Champaign, Illinois at Memorial Stadium because of the reconstruction of their home stadium Soldier Field.

The NFL title was eventually won by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they defeated the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California on January 26, 2003.

Expansion and realignment

With the Houston Texans joining the NFL, the league's teams were realigned into eight divisions: four teams in each division and four divisions in each conference. In creating the new divisions, the league tried to maintain the historical rivalries from the old alignment, while at the same time attempting to organize the teams geographically. Legally, three teams from the AFC Central (Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh) were required to be in the same division as part of any realignment proposals; this was part of the NFL's settlement with the city of Cleveland in the wake of the 1995 Cleveland Browns relocation controversy.[1]

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the eventual Super Bowl winners, hosting the Minnesota Vikings in week 9

The major changes were:[2][3]

Additionally, the arrival of the Texans meant that the league could return to its pre-1999 scheduling format in which no team received a bye during the first two weeks or last seven weeks of the season. From 1999 to 2001, at least one team sat out each week (including the preseason) because of an odd number of teams in the league (this also happened in 1960, 1966, and other years wherein the league had an odd number of teams). It nearly became problematic during the previous season due to the September 11 attacks, since the San Diego Chargers had their bye week during the week following 9/11 and the league nearly outright canceled that week's slate of games.

The league also introduced a new eight-year scheduling rotation designed so that all teams will play each other at least twice during those eight years, and will play in every other team's stadium at least once. Under the new scheduling formula, only two of a team's games each season are based on the previous year's record, down from four under the previous system. All teams play four interconference games. An analysis of win percentages in 2008 showed a statistical trend upwards for top teams since this change; the top team each year then averaged 14.2 wins, versus 13.4 previously.[4]

The playoff format was also modified: four division winners and two wild cards from each conference now advance to the playoffs, instead of three division winners and three wild cards. In each conference, the division winners are now seeded 1 through 4, and the wild cards are seeded 5 and 6. In the current system, the only way a wild card team can host a playoff game is if both teams in the conference's championship game are wild cards. Since 1990, the number of playoff teams is still 12.

Major rule changes

  • A player who touches a pylon remains in-bounds until any part of his body touches the ground out-of-bounds.
  • Continuing-action fouls now become dead-ball fouls and will result in the loss of down and distance.
  • Any dead-ball penalties by the offense after they have made the line to gain will result in a loss of 15 yards and a new first down. Previously, the 15 yard penalty was enforced but the down was replayed.
The 2002-03 AFC Champion Oakland Raiders playing at home to the Kansas City Chiefs on December 28, 2002
  • The act of batting and stripping the ball from a player is officially legal.
  • Chop-blocks are illegal on kicking plays.
  • Hitting a quarterback helmet-to-helmet anytime after a change of possession is illegal.
  • After a kickoff, the game clock will start when the ball is touched legally in the field of play. Previously, the clock started immediately when the ball was kicked.
  • Inside the final two minutes of a half/overtime, the game clock will not stop when the player who originally takes the snap is tackled behind the line of scrimmage (i.e. sacked).

Also, with the opening of the NFL's first stadium with a retractable roof, Reliant Stadium, the following rules were enacted:

  • The home team must determine whether their retractable roof is to be opened or closed 90 minutes before kickoff.
  • If it is closed at kickoff, it cannot be reopened during the game.
  • If it is open at kickoff, it cannot be closed during the game unless the weather conditions become severe.

New uniforms

Reebok took over the contract to be the official athletic supplier to the NFL for all 32 teams' uniforms. Previously, teams had individual contracts with athletic suppliers. American Needle, which had a contract with a few teams before the Reebok deal, challenged the NFL in court over Reebok's exclusive deal, with the NFL effectively stating that it was a "single-entity league" instead of a group consisting of 32 owners. The case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2009, the Supreme Court agreed to hear American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League. In 2010, the court ruled that the NFL is not a single entity.[5] The legality of the NFL's exclusive contract with Reebok is still in question by the lower courts as of October 2010. Reebok remained the league's athletic supplier through the 2011 NFL season, when Nike took over the contract for the 2012 NFL season.[6]

Reebok had initially announced when the deal was signed in 2000 that aside from the expansion Texans, all NFL teams would be wearing new uniforms for the 2002 season. However, after protests from several owners--most vocally Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney[7]--Reebok later rescinded the proposal. Reebok did, however (by player request to reduce holding calls), shorten the sleeves on the jerseys for teams that hadn't done so already (players had been for the previous decade tying the sleeves tight around their arms to prevent holding) and made the jerseys tighter-fitting. This is perhaps most noticeable on the Indianapolis Colts jerseys, where the shoulder stripes, which initially went from the top of the shoulders all the way underneath the arms, were truncated to just the top portion of the shoulders. This did not affect jerseys sold for retail, though, although special "authentic, gameday-worn" jerseys with the shorter sleeves are available at a much higher premium. Reebok later had more success convincing teams to change uniforms with the NHL when Reebok introduced the Rbk Edge uniforms for the 2007-08 NHL season.

Although Reebok rescinded the idea of all NFL teams wearing new uniforms for the 2002 season, the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks did redesign their uniforms, with the Seahawks also unveiling an updated logo in honor of their move to Qwest Field and the NFC.

Specific uniform changes by team included:

Stadium changes

Coaching changes

Final regular season standings

W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against

Clinched playoff seeds are marked in parentheses and shaded in green

AFC East
(4)New York Jets [a] 9 7 0 .562 359 336
New England Patriots [b] 9 7 0 .562 381 346
Miami Dolphins 9 7 0 .562 378 301
Buffalo Bills 8 8 0 .500 379 397
AFC North
(3)Pittsburgh Steelers 10 5 1 .656 390 345
(6)Cleveland Browns [c] 9 7 0 .562 344 320
Baltimore Ravens 7 9 0 .438 316 354
Cincinnati Bengals 2 14 0 .125 279 456
AFC South
(2)Tennessee Titans 11 5 0 .688 367 324
(5)Indianapolis Colts 10 6 0 .625 349 313
Jacksonville Jaguars 6 10 0 .375 328 315
Houston Texans 4 12 0 .250 213 356
AFC West
(1)Oakland Raiders [d] 11 5 0 .688 450 304
Denver Broncos 9 7 0 .562 392 344
San Diego Chargers [e] 8 8 0 .500 333 367
Kansas City Chiefs 8 8 0 .500 467 399
NFC East
(1)Philadelphia Eagles [f] 12 4 0 .750 415 241
(5)New York Giants 10 6 0 .625 320 279
Washington Redskins 7 9 0 .438 307 365
Dallas Cowboys 5 11 0 .312 217 329
NFC North
(3)Green Bay Packers 12 4 0 .750 398 328
Minnesota Vikings 6 10 0 .375 390 442
Chicago Bears 4 12 0 .250 281 379
Detroit Lions 3 13 0 .188 306 451
NFC South
(2)Tampa Bay Buccaneers [g] 12 4 0 .750 346 196
(6)Atlanta Falcons 9 6 1 .594 402 314
New Orleans Saints 9 7 0 .562 432 388
Carolina Panthers 7 9 0 .438 258 302
NFC West
(4)San Francisco 49ers 10 6 0 .625 367 351
St. Louis Rams [h] 7 9 0 .438 316 369
Seattle Seahawks 7 9 0 .438 355 369
Arizona Cardinals 5 11 0 .312 262 417


  • a N.Y. Jets finished ahead of New England in the AFC East based on better record in common games (8-4 to 7-5) and Miami based on better division record (4-2 to 2-4).
  • b New England finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on better division record (4-2 to 2-4).
  • c Cleveland clinched the AFC 6 seed instead of Denver or New England based on better conference record (7-5 to Denver's 5-7 and New England's 6-6).
  • d Oakland clinched the AFC 1 seed instead of Tennessee based on a head-to-head victory.
  • e San Diego finished ahead of Kansas City in the AFC West based on better division record (3-3 to 2-4).
  • f Philadelphia clinched the NFC 1 seed instead of Green Bay or Tampa Bay based on better conference record (11-1 to Green Bay's 9-3 and Tampa Bay's 9-3).
  • g Tampa Bay clinched the NFC 2 seed instead of Green Bay on a head-to-head victory.
  • h St. Louis finished ahead of Seattle in the NFC West based on better division record (4-2 to 2-4).


Within each conference, the four division winners and the two wild card teams (the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. The NFL does not use a fixed bracket playoff system, and there are no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seed wild card, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth. The 1 and 2 seeds from each conference then receive a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosts the worst surviving seed from the first round (seed 4, 5 or 6), while the number 2 seed will play the other team (seed 3, 4 or 5). The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference.


Jan. 5 - Heinz Field   Jan. 11 - The Coliseum          
 6  Cleveland  33
 3  Pittsburgh  31
 3  Pittsburgh  36     Jan. 19 - Network Associates Coliseum
 2  Tennessee  34*  
Jan. 4 - Giants Stadium  2  Tennessee  24
Jan. 12 - Network Associates Coliseum
   1  Oakland  41  
 5  Indianapolis  0 AFC Championship
 4  NY Jets  10
 4  NY Jets  41   Jan. 26 - Qualcomm Stadium
 1  Oakland  30  
Wild card playoffs  
Divisional playoffs
Jan. 5 - Candlestick Park  A1  Oakland  21
Jan. 12 - Raymond James Stadium
   N2  Tampa Bay  48
 5  NY Giants  38 Super Bowl XXXVII
 4  San Francisco  6
 4  San Francisco  39     Jan. 19 - Veterans Stadium
 2  Tampa Bay  31  
Jan. 4 - Lambeau Field  2  Tampa Bay  27
Jan. 11 - Veterans Stadium
   1  Philadelphia  10  
 6  Atlanta  27 NFC Championship
 6  Atlanta  6
 3  Green Bay  7  
 1  Philadelphia  20  

* Indicates overtime victory


The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the season:

Record Player/Team Date/Opponent Previous Record Holder[9]
Most Pass Receptions, Season Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (143) December 29, vs. Jacksonville Herman Moore, Detroit, 1995 (123)
Longest Return of a Missed Field Goal Chris McAlister, Baltimore (107 yards) September 30, vs. Denver Aaron Glenn, N.Y. Jets vs. Indianapolis, November 15, 1998 (104)
Yards From Scrimmage, Career Jerry Rice, Oakland (21,284) September 29, vs. Tennessee Walter Payton, 1975-1987 (21,264)
Most Rushing Yards Gained, Career Emmitt Smith, Dallas October 27, vs. Seattle Walter Payton, 1975-1987 (16,726)
Most Rushing Yards by a Quarterback, Game Michael Vick, Atlanta (173) December 1 vs. Minnesota Tobin Rote, Green Bay vs. Chicago, November 18, 1951 (150)
Most First Downs by Both Teams, Game Seattle (32) vs. Kansas City (32) [64 total] November 24 Tied by 2 games (62 total)
Fewest Fumbles by a Team, Season Kansas City (7) N/A Cleveland, 1959 (8)
Fewest Fumbles Lost by a Team, Season Kansas City (2) N/A Tied by 2 teams (3)
Most Punts by a Team, Season Houston (116) N/A Chicago, 1981 (114)

Statistical leaders


Points scored Kansas City Chiefs (467)
Total yards gained Oakland Raiders (6,237)
Yards rushing Minnesota Vikings (2,507)
Yards passing Oakland Raiders (4,475)
Fewest points allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (196)
Fewest total yards allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4,044)
Fewest rushing yards allowed Pittsburgh Steelers (1,375)
Fewest passing yards allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2,490)


Scoring Priest Holmes, Kansas City (144 points)
Touchdowns Priest Holmes, Kansas City (24 TDs)
Most field goals made Martin Gramatica, Tampa Bay (32 FGs)
Rushing Ricky Williams, Miami (1,853 yards)
Passing Chad Pennington, New York Jets (104.2 rating)
Passing touchdowns Tom Brady, New England (28 TDs)
Pass receiving Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (143 catches)
Pass receiving yards Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1,722)
Punt returns Jimmy Williams, San Francisco (16.8 average yards)
Kickoff returns MarTay Jenkins, Arizona (28.0 average yards)
InterceptionsBrian Kelly, Tampa Bay (8)
Punting Todd Sauerbrun, Carolina (45.5 average yards)
Sacks Jason Taylor, Miami (18.5)



The 2002 NFL Draft was held from April 20 to 21, 2002 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the Houston Texans selected quarterback David Carr from Fresno State University.

External links


  1. ^ Murray, Ken (May 21, 2001). "Nfl Vote On Realignment Nears". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2016. 
  2. ^ "Realignment for 2002". National Football League. May 23, 2001. Retrieved 2016. 
  3. ^ Mason, Andrew (May 23, 2001). "Old faces, new places". National Football League. Archived from the original on June 5, 2001. Retrieved 2016. 
  4. ^ "16-0: The Myth of Perfection". The Fount. Archived from the original on February 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008. 
  5. ^ "American Needle Supreme Court Ruling: NFL Loses Lawsuit". Huffington Post. May 24, 2010. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved 2010. 
  6. ^ "Nike strikes uniform deal with NFL". ESPN.com. Associated Press. October 12, 2010. Retrieved 2017. 
  7. ^ Bouchette, Ed; Dulac, Gerry (December 25, 2000). "Steelers Report: 12/25/00". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008. 
  8. ^ http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/nfl/redskins/2002-02-06-uniforms.htm
  9. ^ "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN 978-1-932994-36-0. 


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