The football flew through the flakes and between the uprights in the wintry New England night. Long snapper Lonie Paxton flopped on his back and carved a snow angel in the field.
That celebration of the winning field goal in the Patriots' first playoff victory of 2002, in overtime over Oakland, wiped away a legacy of mediocrity.
Two weeks later, Adam Vinatieri kicked another winner on the final play -- this one in the warmth of the Superdome in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots' improbable rise from a 5-11 last-place team the previous season to Super Bowl champions was voted The Associated Press' Story of the Year by member newspapers and broadcasters.
It beat the story of baseball's labor dispute, which ended with a new contract for players.
In the AP voting, the Patriots received 15 first-place votes and 486 points overall. The baseball labor strife that ended Aug. 30, just 31Â¼2 hours before a strike deadline, received the most first-place votes, 18, and 387 points. The Patriots had a 19-7 edge in second-place votes. Ten points were awarded for first place, down to one point for a 10th-place vote.
The figuring-skating judging scandal at the Winter Olympics finished third, followed by the first World Series victory for the Anaheim Angels, who beat the San Francisco Giants in seven games.
Rounding out the top 10 were Lance Armstrong winning a fourth straight Tour de France; the death of Ted Williams and the family dispute over whether the former Boston Red Sox slugger's body should be cryonically frozen or cremated; Emmitt Smith breaking Walter Payton's NFL rushing record; Serena Williams winning three Grand Slam tennis titles; Tiger Woods winning six golf tournaments and becoming the first player in 30 years to win the first two Grand Slams; and the World Cup, in which the U.S. soccer team's quarterfinal appearance was its best showing since 1930.
The Patriots had their best year ever, beating heavily favored St. Louis 20-17 for the Super Bowl title on Feb. 3.