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NFL Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2: Ordinarily, if the quarterback drops or loses the football while he is bringing the ball forward in a passing motion, and the ball touches the ground, it is considered an incomplete pass. If the quarterback drops or loses the football at any other time, it is considered a fumble, as if any other player had dropped it.
The tuck rule is an exception to this rule. It applies if the quarterback brings his arm forward in a passing motion, but then changes his mind and tries to keep hold of the football rather than making a pass. In this situation, if the quarterback loses the ball while stopping his passing motion or bringing the ball back to his body, it is still considered a forward pass (and thus an incomplete pass if the ball hits the ground), even if the ball is moving backwards at the time the quarterback loses it.