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 their home games in 2002 in Champaign, Illinois at Memorial Stadium because of the reconstruction of 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 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 season’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. However, the number of playoff teams still remains at 12, where it has been since 1990.

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 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, all 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 various 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 (most 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] 970.562359336
New England Patriots [b] 970.562381346
Miami Dolphins 970.562378301
Buffalo Bills 880.500379397
AFC North
(3) Pittsburgh Steelers 1051.656390345
(6) Cleveland Browns [c] 970.562344320
Baltimore Ravens 790.438316354
Cincinnati Bengals 2140.125279456
AFC South
(2) Tennessee Titans 1150.688367324
(5) Indianapolis Colts 1060.625349313
Jacksonville Jaguars 6100.375328315
Houston Texans 4120.250213356
AFC West
(1) Oakland Raiders [d] 1150.688450304
Denver Broncos 970.562392344
San Diego Chargers [e] 880.500333367
Kansas City Chiefs 880.500467399
NFC East
(1) Philadelphia Eagles [f] 1240.750415241
(5) New York Giants 1060.625320279
Washington Redskins 790.438307365
Dallas Cowboys 5110.312217329
NFC North
(3) Green Bay Packers 1240.750398328
Minnesota Vikings 6100.375390442
Chicago Bears 4120.250281379
Detroit Lions 3130.188306451
NFC South
(2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers [g] 1240.750346196
(6) Atlanta Falcons 961.594402314
New Orleans Saints 970.562432388
Carolina Panthers 790.438258302
NFC West
(4) San Francisco 49ers 1060.625367351
St. Louis Rams [h] 790.438316369
Seattle Seahawks 790.438355369
Arizona Cardinals 5110.312262417


  • 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.

Playoff seeds
1Oakland Raiders (West winner)Philadelphia Eagles (East winner)
2Tennessee Titans (South winner)Tampa Bay Buccaneers (South winner)
3Pittsburgh Steelers (North winner)Green Bay Packers (North winner)
4New York Jets (East winner)San Francisco 49ers (West winner)
5Indianapolis Colts (wild card)New York Giants (wild card)
6Cleveland Browns (wild card)Atlanta Falcons (wild card)


    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 scoredKansas City Chiefs (467)
    Total yards gainedOakland Raiders (6,237)
    Yards rushingMinnesota Vikings (2,507)
    Yards passingOakland Raiders (4,475)
    Fewest points allowedTampa Bay Buccaneers (196)
    Fewest total yards allowedTampa Bay Buccaneers (4,044)
    Fewest rushing yards allowedPittsburgh Steelers (1,375)
    Fewest passing yards allowedTampa Bay Buccaneers (2,490)


    ScoringPriest Holmes, Kansas City (144 points)
    TouchdownsPriest Holmes, Kansas City (24 TDs)
    Most field goals madeMartin Gramatica, Tampa Bay (32 FGs)
    RushingRicky Williams, Miami (1,853 yards)
    PassingChad Pennington, New York Jets (104.2 rating)
    Passing touchdownsTom Brady, New England (28 TDs)
    Pass receivingMarvin Harrison, Indianapolis (143 catches)
    Pass receiving yardsMarvin Harrison, Indianapolis (1,722)
    Punt returnsJimmy Williams, San Francisco (16.8 average yards)
    Kickoff returnsMarTay Jenkins, Arizona (28.0 average yards)
    InterceptionsBrian Kelly, Tampa Bay (8)
    PuntingTodd Sauerbrun, Carolina (45.5 average yards)
    SacksJason Taylor, Miami (18.5)


    Most Valuable PlayerRich Gannon, Quarterback, Oakland
    Coach of the YearAndy Reid, Philadelphia
    Offensive Player of the YearPriest Holmes, Running back, Kansas City
    Defensive Player of the YearDerrick Brooks, Linebacker, Tampa Bay
    Offensive Rookie of the YearClinton Portis, Running Back, Denver
    Defensive Rookie of the YearJulius Peppers, Defensive End, Carolina
    NFL Comeback Player of the YearTommy Maddox, Quarterback, Pittsburgh
    Walter Payton NFL Man of the YearTroy Vincent, Cornerback, Philadelphia
    Super Bowl Most Valuable PlayerDexter Jackson, Safety, Tampa Bay


    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.


    1. Murray, Ken (May 21, 2001). "Nfl Vote On Realignment Nears". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on November 8, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
    2. "Realignment for 2002". National Football League. May 23, 2001. Archived from the original on December 26, 2016. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
    3. Mason, Andrew (May 23, 2001). "Old faces, new places". National Football League. Archived from the original on June 5, 2001. Retrieved November 6, 2016.
    4. "16–0: The Myth of Perfection". The Fount. Archived from the original on February 7, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008.
    5. "American Needle Supreme Court Ruling: NFL Loses Lawsuit". Huffington Post. May 24, 2010. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved June 14, 2010.
    6. "Nike strikes uniform deal with NFL". ESPN.com. Associated Press. October 12, 2010. Archived from the original on June 10, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
    7. Bouchette, Ed; Dulac, Gerry (December 25, 2000). "Steelers Report: 12/25/00". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on November 26, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2008.
    8. "USATODAY.com - New Redskins uniforms suit Spurrier". usatoday30.usatoday.com. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
    9. "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN 978-1-932994-36-0.


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