2002 NFL season

2002 NFL season

Infobox NFL
year = 2002
NFLchampion = Tampa Bay Buccaneers
regular_season = September 5 2002 - December 30 2002
playoffs_start = January 4 2003
AFCchampion = Oakland Raiders
NFCchampion = Tampa Bay Buccaneers
sb_name = XXXVII
sb_date = January 26 2003
sb_site = Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
pb_date = February 2 2003

The 2002 season of the National Football League (NFL) was the 83rd one played by the major professional American football league in the United States. The league expanded to 32 teams with the addition of the Houston Texans. The clubs were then realigned into eight divisions, four in each conference. 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 most recent tied game in the NFL took place on November 10 that season between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The game ended in a 34-34 tie, with both teams setting many team records in the game on offense. It is the second highest-scoring tied game in the NFL since the sudden-death overtime rule went into effect in regular season games in 1974. The Steelers were also involved in the one game that scored higher, a 35-35 draw in Denver in 1974.

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 realignment

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:
* The Seattle Seahawks were the only team that switched conferences; they moved from the AFC West to the NFC West.
* The Arizona Cardinals moved from the NFC East to the NFC West.
* The Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tennessee Titans were placed into the newly formed AFC South.
* The Atlanta Falcons, the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were placed into the newly formed NFC South.
* Both the AFC Central and the NFC Central were renamed AFC North and NFC North, respectively.

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 had to sit out each week (including the preseason) because of an odd number of teams in the league.

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. [cite web | url=http://www.thefount.info/16-0isthenew15-1.html | title=16-0: The Myth of Perfection | publisher=The Fount | accessdate=2008-02-06]

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). In each conference, the division winners are now seeded 1 through 4, and the wild cards are seeded 5 and 6.

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, 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 changes

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. (The New England Patriots, for instance, had Adidas as their supplier, which ironically would later acquire Reebok.) On most NFL apparel, including the uniform pants and at the v-neck of the jerseys, an "NFL Equipment" patch was added. In the case of the jerseys, it replaced the previous patch of the NFL shield.

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 [http://www.post-gazette.com/steelers/20001225stllog7.asp] --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 (which would make the sleeves themselves virtually nonexistent and several teams with stripes on the sleeves stop in the middle of the uniform; players had been for the previous decade tying the sleeves tight around their arms to prevent holding) and made the jerseys tighter-fitting. 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.

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"

tatistical leaders

Team

Notes

References

* "NFL Record and Fact Book" (ISBN 1-932994-36-X)
* [http://www.nfl.com/history/chronology/2001- NFL History 2001-] (Last accessed October 17, 2005)
* "Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League" (ISBN 0-06-270174-6)
* [http://www.nfl.com/news/story/5153800 NFL adopts changes to rules] (Last accessed October 17, 2005)
* [http://espn.go.com/nfl/news/2001/0522/1202816.html New alignment takes effect in 2002] from ESPN.com, May 22, 2001 (Last accessed December 9, 2005)
* [http://www.giants.com/news/press_releases/story.asp?story_id=812 NFL Announces 2002-2009 Schedule Rotation] (Last accessed January 19, 2008)
* [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/news/2001/05/22/banks_realign/ Seattle moved to NFC in approved realignment plan] from CNNSI.com, May 22, 2001 (Last accessed December 9, 2005)


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