2002 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 5, 2002–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
National Football League seasons
 < 2001 2003 > 

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 in Super Bowl XXXVII, the Super Bowl championship game, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California on January 26.

Expansion and realignmentEdit

With the Houston Texans joining the NFL, the league's teams were realigned into eight divisions, four 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.

The major changes were:

Additionally, the arrival of the Texans meant that the league could return to its pre-1999 scheduling format in which no team got 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).

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. An analysis of win percentages has shown a statistical trend upwards for top teams since this change; the top team each year now averages 14.2 wins, versus 13.4 previously.[1]

The playoff format was also modified: four division winners and two wild cards from each conference now advance to the playoffs (changed from three division winners and three wild cards with the top wildcard hosting a playoff game). 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 wildcard team can host a playoff game is if both win out into their league's Championship Game. In that scenario the #5 seed would host the game on its field. It is impossible for the #6 seed to host a playoff game (unless the team's stadium hosts the Super Bowl that year).

Major rule changesEdit

  • 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, 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

Uniform changesEdit

In addition, Reebok took over the contract to be the official athletic supplier to the NFL for all 32 teams's 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.[2] The legality of the NFL's exclusive contract with Reebok is still in question by the lower courts as of October 2010. Reebok will remain the league's athletic supplier through the 2011 NFL season, when Nike will take over the contract.[3]

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[4]--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.

2002 NFL ChangesEdit

  • Buffalo Bills - New Uniforms.
  • Washington Redskins - Added a alternative home Uniforms. Burgundy helmets with bow and arrow logo. Burgundy uniforms with white numbers with gold pants. 70th season logo on uniform.
  • New England Patriots - New stadium; Gillette Stadium
  • Detroit Lions - New stadium; Ford Field
  • Houston Texans - New Expansion Team.
  • Seattle Seahawks - New Logo. New Uniforms. New Stadium; Qwest Field. And in a new conference the NFC.
  • Chicago Bears - Played in Memorial Stadium in Champaign, IL while Soldier Field was being remodeled for the season.
  • San Diego Chargers - Navy pants with road uniforms.
  • St.Louis Rams - Removed side panels on uniforms.
  • Cleveland Browns - Added third alternative uniforms. Orange uniforms with white number with brown shadow in the back.
  • Carolina Panthers - Added third alternative uniforms. Panther blue with white number and black trim.
  • New Orleans Saints - Added third alternative uniforms. Old gold uniforms with black numbers and white trim. Brought back old gold pants.
  • Denver Broncos - Added third alternative uniforms. Orange.

Coaching changesEdit

Final regular season standingsEdit

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).


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


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

* Indicates overtime victory

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

Record Player/Team Date/Opponent Previous Record Holder[5]
Most Pass Receptions, Season Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis (143) N/A 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 leadersEdit


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)
InterceptionsCharles Woodson, Oakland and Brian 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

External LinksEdit



2002 NFL seasonv · d · e
AFC East North South West East North South West NFC
Buffalo Baltimore Houston Denver Dallas Chicago Atlanta Arizona
Miami Cincinnati Indianapolis Kansas City NY Giants Detroit Carolina St. Louis
New England Cleveland Jacksonville Oakland Philadelphia Green Bay New Orleans San Francisco
NY Jets Pittsburgh Tennessee San Diego Washington Minnesota Tampa Bay Seattle
2002 NFL DraftNFL PlayoffsPro BowlSuper Bowl XXXVII
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