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Patriots Looking Ahead to Raiders

November 13, 2002

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FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) _ The Patriots’ Lawyer Milloy started talking about what Oakland’s mood might be like when the two teams play for the first time since their much-debated playoff game last season.

``It’s been evident ...″ he began. Then he paused. Then the talkative strong safety backpedaled, leaving the thought hanging.

``I’m not even going to talk about last year,″ Milloy said Wednesday. ``That’s last year, you know.″

Everybody knows.

Even Patriots running back Kevin Faulk pretended to forget about the game: ``I don’t think I remember what happened last year.″

The subject might be taboo with a pair of 5-4 teams that have rebounded from four-game losing streaks and are playing a critical game Sunday night. But the memory is strong.

The game last Jan. 19 was played in a heavy snowstorm and ended in heated debate when a replay reversal with less than two minutes left in regulation led to Adam Vinatieri’s 45-yard field goal that tied the game with 27 seconds left. Vinatieri kicked a 23-yarder in overtime to help the Patriots win it 16-13.

More famous than the Vinatieri’s clutch kicks was an apparent fumble by New England quarterback Tom Brady on his team’s winning drive. The play initially was ruled a fumble, but after a video review, the officials said Brady was trying to put the ball away when he brought it down, and that the miscue was an incompletion.

The episode introduced the term ``tuck rule″ to the football vernacular, and made the refs extremely unpopular in Oakland.

The rule states that ``any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body.″

Brady nearly had the ball tucked back into his body when Charles Woodson knocked it loose and teammate Greg Biekert recovered. The Raiders groused about the ruling after the game _ ``I feel like we had one taken away from us,″ Jerry Rice said _ and during the offseason.

Like Milloy, Brady prefers to look ahead.

``I think I’ve heard enough `tuck’ for the last eight months,″ Brady said, adding that the officials ``got the call right.″

And the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl.

Raiders coach Bill Callahan has said he doesn’t want to talk about last year’s game. Too much emphasis on it could hurt his team.

``It might distract them a little bit, but they’re a veteran team,″ Patriots center Damien Woody said. ``I’m sure they’re going to be well-prepared.″

Both teams had to modify their game plans last season because of the snow, and Milloy thinks the Raiders could have handled the conditions better.

``It slowed us down last year,″ he said. ``They played well in the snow.″

Sunday’s game is in Oakland, so the conditions shouldn’t matter. Milloy expects the game to be as physical as if their last meeting wasn’t so dramatic.

``I’m not going to feed off of last year,″ he said. ``I’m not going to fall into that trap.″

Woody said he’s sure the Raiders are thinking about that game, but ``we’re not worried about all the calls and everything that happened in last year’s game. I’m sure that’s on their mind, but for us it’s just another business trip.″

The playoff win was the last game played at Foxboro Stadium, which was torn down and replaced by Gillette Stadium.

On Sunday, the Patriots must play in front of the Raiders’ raucous fans, who haven’t forgotten the way their team’s season ended.

``I’ve never played there, and I hear the fans are rowdy and they’re crazy,″ Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. ``That’s just something we’re just going to have to block out.

``It’s a black-hole stadium, but it’s a green field of grass and those are always the same.″

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