2001 NFL season

The 2001 NFL season was the 82nd regular season of the National Football League (NFL), and the first season of the 21st century. The league permanently moved the first week of the regular season to the weekend following Labor Day. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the NFL's week 2 games (September 16 and 17) were postponed and rescheduled to the weekend of January 6 and 7, 2002. To retain the full playoff format, all playoff games, including Super Bowl XXXVI, were rescheduled one week later. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, defeating the St. Louis Rams 20–17 at the Louisiana Superdome.

2001 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 9, 2001 – January 7, 2002
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, a number of games were re-scheduled.
Start dateJanuary 12, 2002
AFC ChampionsNew England Patriots
NFC ChampionsSt. Louis Rams
Super Bowl XXXVI
DateFebruary 3, 2002
SiteLouisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
ChampionsNew England Patriots
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 9, 2002
SiteAloha Stadium
2001 NFL season is located in the United States
AFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, Blue pog.svg Central, White pog.svg East
2001 NFL season is located in the United States
NFC teams: Yellow ffff00 pog.svg West, Blue pog.svg Central, White pog.svg East

This is the final season with 31 teams as the Houston Texans were introduced as an expansion team the following season.

Player movementEdit


  • July 27: The San Francisco 49ers sign quarterback Ricky Ray.[1] Ray would go on to a career in the Canadian Football League.


  • July 20: The New Orleans Saints trade Robert Arnaud to Washington.[2]


  • April 9, 2001: Three-time Super Bowl champion Troy Aikman announces his retirement, after failing to find another team.


The 2001 NFL Draft was held from April 21 to 22, 2001 at New York City's Theater at Madison Square Garden. With the first pick, the Atlanta Falcons selected quarterback Michael Vick from Virginia Tech.

Officiating changesEdit

Mike Pereira became the league's director of officiating, succeeding Jerry Seeman, who had served the role since 1991.

Bill Leavy and Terry McAulay were promoted to referee. Phil Luckett returned to back judge, while another officiating crew was added in 2001 in preparation for the Houston Texans expansion team, the league's 32nd franchise, in 2002.

Due to labor dispute, the regular NFL officials were locked out prior to the final week of the preseason. Replacement officials who had worked in college football or the Arena Football League officiated NFL games during the last preseason week and the first week of the regular season. A deal was eventually reached before play resumed after the September 11 attacks.

Major rule changesEdit

  • Fumble recoveries will be awarded at the spot of the recovery, not where the player's momentum carries him. This change was passed in response to two regular season games in 2000, Atlanta FalconsCarolina Panthers[3] and Oakland RaidersSeattle Seahawks,[4] in which a safety was awarded when a defensive player's momentum in recovering a fumble carried him into his own end zone.
  • Taunting rules and roughing the passer will be strictly enforced.

2001 deathsEdit

Regular seasonEdit

Following a pattern set in 1999, the first week of the season was permanently moved to the weekend following Labor Day. With Super Bowls XXXVIXXXVII already scheduled for fixed dates, the league initially decided to eliminate the Super Bowl bye weeks for 2001 and 2002 to adjust.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the games originally scheduled for September 16 and 17 were postponed and rescheduled to the weekend of January 6 and 7. To retain the full playoff format, all playoff games, including the Super Bowl, were rescheduled one week later. The season-ending Pro Bowl was also moved to one week later. This was the last season in which each conference had three divisions, as the conferences would be realigned to four divisions for the 2002 NFL season.

Canceling the games scheduled for September 16 and 17 was considered and rejected since it would have canceled a home game for about half the teams (15 of 31). It would have also resulted in an unequal number of games played: September 16 and 17 was to have been a bye for the San Diego Chargers, so that team would still have played 16 games that season and each of the other teams would have played only 15 games (the Chargers ultimately finished 5–11, making any competitive advantages to playing an extra game irrelevant).

New England at Carolina in week 17, January 6, 2002

As a result of rescheduling Week 2 as Week 17, the Pittsburgh Steelers ended up not playing a home game for the entire month of September (their only home game during that month was originally scheduled for September 16). The ESPN Sunday Night Football game for that week was also changed. It was originally scheduled to be Cleveland at Pittsburgh, but it was replaced with Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, which was seen as a more interesting matchup. Ironically, the Eagles and Buccaneers would both rest their starters that night, and would meet one week later in the playoffs. In recognition of this, when NBC began airing Sunday Night Football in 2006, there would be no game initially scheduled for Weeks 11 to 17 – a game initially scheduled in the afternoon would be moved to the primetime slot, without stripping any teams of a primetime appearance. This way of "flexible scheduling" would not be used at all in 2007, and since 2008, it is only used in the final week, except for the 2017 season, when no primetime game was scheduled for Week 17 due to that Sunday falling on New Year's Eve.

The games that eventually made up Week 17 marked the latest regular season games to be played during what is traditionally defined as the "NFL season" (under the format at the time, the regular season could not end later than January 3 in any given year; this changed in 2021, as the NFL expanded to 17 games with the end of the regular season pushed back one week as a result; the 2021 regular season will end on January 9, and under the new format, the latest the regular season could end is January 10).

Another scheduling change took place in October, when the Dallas at Oakland game was moved from October 21 to 7 to accommodate a possible Oakland Athletics home playoff game on October 21. The rescheduling ended up being unnecessary as the Athletics would not make it past the Division Series round.

Scheduling formulaEdit

AFC East vs NFC West
AFC Central vs NFC Central
AFC West vs NFC East

Final regular season standingsEdit


  • New England finished ahead of Miami in the AFC East based on better division record (6–2 to Dolphins’ 5–3).
  • Cleveland finished ahead of Tennessee in the AFC Central based on better division record (5–5 to Titans’ 3–7).
  • Jacksonville finished ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC Central based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • N.Y. Giants finished ahead of Arizona in the NFC East based on head-to-head sweep (2–0).
  • New Orleans finished ahead of Atlanta in the NFC West based on better division record (4–4 to Falcons’ 3–5).
  • Baltimore was the second AFC Wild Card based on better record against common opponents (3–1 to Jets’ 2–2).
  • Green Bay was the first NFC Wild Card based on better conference record (9–3 to 49ers’ 8–4).


Jan 12 – Veterans Stadium Jan 19 – Soldier Field
6 Tampa Bay 9
3 Philadelphia 33
3 Philadelphia 31 Jan 27 – Edward Jones Dome
2 Chicago 19
Jan 13 – Lambeau Field 3 Philadelphia 24
Jan 20 – Edward Jones Dome
1 St. Louis 29
5 San Francisco 15 NFC Championship
4 Green Bay 17
4 Green Bay 25 Feb 3 – Louisiana Superdome
1 St. Louis 45
Wild Card playoffs
Divisional playoffs
Jan 12 – Network Associates Coliseum N1 St. Louis 17
Jan. 19Foxboro Stadium
A2 New England 20
6 NY Jets 24 Super Bowl XXXVI
3 Oakland 13
3 Oakland 38 Jan 27 – Heinz Field
2 New England 16*
Jan 13 – Pro Player Stadium 2 New England 24
Jan 20 – Heinz Field
1 Pittsburgh 17
5 Baltimore 20 AFC Championship
5 Baltimore 10
4 Miami 3
1 Pittsburgh 27

* Indicates overtime victory


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

Record Player/team Previous record holder[8]
Most sacks, season* Michael Strahan, New York Giants (22.5) Mark Gastineau, New York Jets, 1984 (22.0)
Most consecutive games lost, season Carolina (15) Tied by 4 teams (14)

* – Sack statistics have only been compiled since 1982.

Statistical leadersEdit


Points scored St. Louis Rams (503)
Total yards gained St. Louis Rams (6,930)
Yards rushing Pittsburgh Steelers (2,774)
Yards passing St. Louis Rams (4,903)
Fewest points allowed Chicago Bears (203)
Fewest total yards allowed Pittsburgh Steelers (4,504)
Fewest rushing yards allowed Pittsburgh Steelers (1,195)
Fewest passing yards allowed Dallas Cowboys (3,019)


Scoring Marshall Faulk, St. Louis (128 points)
Touchdowns Marshall Faulk, St. Louis (21 TDs)
Most field goals made Jason Elam, Denver (31 FGs)
Rushing Priest Holmes, Kansas City (1,555 yards)
Passing Kurt Warner, St. Louis (101.4 rating)
Passing touchdowns Kurt Warner, St. Louis (36 TDs)
Pass receiving Rod Smith, Denver (113 catches)
Pass receiving yards David Boston, Arizona (1,598)
Punt returns Troy Brown, New England (14.2 average yards)
Kickoff returns Ronney Jenkins, San Diego (26.6 average yards)
Interceptions Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay and Anthony Henry, Cleveland (10)
Punting Todd Sauerbrun, Carolina (47.5 average yards)
Sacks Michael Strahan, New York Giants (22.5)


Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner, quarterback, St. Louis
Coach of the Year Dick Jauron, Chicago
Offensive Player of the Year Marshall Faulk, running back, St. Louis
Defensive Player of the Year Michael Strahan, defensive end, New York Giants
Offensive Rookie of the Year Anthony Thomas, running back, Chicago
Defensive Rookie of the Year Kendrell Bell, linebacker, Pittsburgh
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Garrison Hearst, running back, San Francisco
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Jerome Bettis, running back, Pittsburgh
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Tom Brady, quarterback, New England

Coaching changesEdit

Stadium changesEdit

In addition, the AstroTurf at Veterans Stadium was replaced with NexTurf after a preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens was canceled for poor field conditions.[9]

Uniform changesEdit

Following 9/11, every jersey had a patch to remember those who died on that day, while the New York Jets and New York Giants wore a patch to remember the firefighters who died.


This was the fourth year under the league's eight-year broadcast contracts with ABC, CBS, Fox, and ESPN to televise Monday Night Football, the AFC package, the NFC package, and Sunday Night Football, respectively.

Pat Summerall announced that this would be his last season as a full-time NFL broadcaster. This would also be John Madden's last year of commentating on Fox, ending the 21-season Summerall–Madden pairing that dated back since 1981 on CBS. With Matt Millen leaving Fox to become the general manager of the Detroit Lions, the network tapped Daryl Johnston from CBS and the then-recently retired quarterback Troy Aikman to join Dick Stockton as Fox's No. 2 team.

Deion Sanders replaced Craig James as an analyst on The NFL Today.


  1. ^ "2001 NFL Transactions. Signings – July". National Football League. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  2. ^ "2001 NFL Transactions. Trades – July". National Football League. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  3. ^ "Panthers' Seifert confused by call". September 18, 2000. Archived from the original on October 17, 2000. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  4. ^ Bush, David (December 17, 2000). "Bizarre Play Stuns Raiders". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
  5. ^ "L.G. Dupre, 68, Colts Running Back". Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  6. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/news/2001/12/29/martin_funeral_ap/ Full of joy]
  7. ^ "Remember the Players of the AFL". Remember the AFL. Retrieved September 12, 2008.
  8. ^ "Records". 2005 NFL Record and Fact Book. NFL. 2005. ISBN 978-1-932994-36-0.
  9. ^ "Bad turf at Veterans Stadium the culprit". Associated Press. ESPN.com. August 14, 2001.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit