The 2001 NFL season was the 82nd regular season of the National Football League (NFL).
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the NFL's week 2 games (September 16–17) were postponed and re-scheduled to the weekend of January 6–7. In order to retain the full playoff format, all playoff games, including Super Bowl XXXVI, were re-scheduled one week later. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, defeating the St. Louis Rams 20–17 at the Louisiana Superdome.
Following a pattern set in 1999, the first week of the season was permanently moved to the weekend following Labor Day. With Super Bowls XXXVI-XXXVII 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 16–17 were postponed and re-scheduled to the weekend of January 6–7. In order to retain the full playoff format, all playoff games, including the Super Bowl, were re-scheduled 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 3 divisions, as the conferences were realigned to 4 divisions for the 2002 NFL season.
Canceling the games scheduled for September 16–17 was considered and rejected since it would have canceled a home game for half the teams of the league. It would have also resulted in an unequal number of games played: Sept. 16–17 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 moot).
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 Sept. 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 (it was the only night game the Browns had on the schedule, whereas the Steelers had a few others; so 2000 and 2001 marked the first back-to-back seasons for the Browns without a primetime game since 1974–76; the Browns would finally play in Heinz Field at night in 2003). Ironically, the Eagles and the Buccaneers would both rest their starters that night, and they 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 11–17 – 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 utilized at all in 2007, and since 2008, it is only utilized in the final week.
The games that eventually made up Week 17 marked the latest regular season games to be played during what is traditionally defined as "NFL season" (under the current format, the regular season cannot end later than January 3 in any given year).
Another scheduling change took place in October, when the Dallas Cowboys-Oakland Raiders game was moved from October 21 to 7 to accommodate a possible Oakland Athletics home playoff game on the 21st (the start of Major League Baseball's postseason was also delayed by the 9/11 attacks due to rescheduling of a week's worth of games). The rescheduling ended up being unnecessary as the Athletics would not make it past the Division Series round.
Also, this was the only NFL season where every jersey had a patch to remember those who died on 9/11, and the New York Jets and New York Giants wore a patch to remember the firefighters who died.
The season ended with Super Bowl XXXVI when the New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams.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 Falcons–Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders–Seattle Seahawks, 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.
New Orleans Saints – Replaced their gold pants with black pants.
Pittsburgh Steelers – New stadium: Heinz Field.
San Diego Chargers – White pants with road uniforms.
Denver Broncos – New stadium: Invesco Field.
St. Louis Rams – New font for uniform numbers.
Philadelphia Eagles – New hard turf field, due to a cancelled preseason game scheduled against the Baltimore Ravens in which then Ravens' coach Brian Billick told officials of the NFL that he refused to have his team play on a slippery and bouncy turf field which he deemed unsafe.
Buffalo Bills – Gregg Williams; replaced Wade Phillips who was fired following the 2000 season
Cleveland Browns – Butch Davis; replaced Chris Palmer who was fired following the 2000 season
Detroit Lions – Marty Mornhinweg; replaced interim Head Coach Gary Moeller who replaced Bobby Ross who resigned during the 2000 season.
Kansas City Chiefs – Dick Vermeil; replaced Gunther Cunningham who was fired following the 2000 season
New York Jets – Herman Edwards; replaced Al Groh who resigned to become the Head Coach of the University of Virginia.
Washington Redskins – Marty Schottenheimer; replaced interim Head Coach Terry Robiskie who replaced Norv Turner who was fired during the 2000 season
W = Wins, L = Losses, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
Clinched playoff seeds are marked in parentheses and shaded in green. No ties occurred this year.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 (3–2 to Jets' 2–2).
Green Bay was the first NFC Wild Card based on better conference record (9–3 to 49ers' 8–4).
Indicates overtime victory
Indicates winning team
The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the season:
* – Sack statistics have only been compiled since 1982.