By: Bob George/BosSports.net
November 15, 2002

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OAKLAND -- Charles Woodson is as talented as he is idiotic.

That goes double for those thug fans of his, minus the talented.

Woodson guarantees a win. You can't be a Patriot fan and wind up at Network Associates…I mean, Network Solutions…I mean…oh, heck, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and expect to live to see the end of the first quarter.

Enjoy, Patriot Nation. At home, naturally.

Snow Bowl II. Tuck Bowl II. Who cares.

Just win, baby. And we mean Bill Belichick, not Al Davis.

Patriots/Raiders
Close-Up
Where: Network Associates Coliseum
Oakland, Calif.
When: Sunday 11/17/02
8:30 PM EST
Television: ESPN
WCVB Channel 5 in Boston
DSS: DirecTV
Channel 208
2002 Team Records: Patriots 5-4
Raiders 5-4
Latest Line: Raiders by 4
Woodson laid the hit on Tom Brady which caused all this hubbub in the snow back in January. While no zebra bothered to flag Woodson (a former teammate of Brady's at Michigan) for a blow to the head, referee Walt Coleman ruled fumble and recovery by Greg Biekert, then saw the replay and ruled it an incomplete pass. The Patriots go on to score 6 unanswered points to defeat Oakland and advance to the AFC Championship Game.

Woodson is inconsolable after the game. He told Fox Sports that it was a bull-(expletive) call on the air. Woodson carries this grudge so far and long that he goes Joe Namath on the Patriots this week. Another former Michigan Man, Ty Law, tells the man he recruited basically to have a nice week and to shut the heck up.

And so, we have our backdrop for Sunday night's tilt here at Oakland. The game the Raiders and their socially deviant fans have been waiting ten months for.

Both teams are 5-4. Both teams have endured four-game losing streaks. Both teams are in a zone right now. The Patriots pulled their comeback magic on Chicago. The Raiders caught a Bronco team that forgot that defense is a part of football.

That said, here are the many reasons why the Patriots should think nothing but victory on Sunday night.

What Woodson never brings up regarding the Snow Bowl is that all his team had to do was to stop the Patriots without getting a first down after the tuck play. Why not bag on Eric Allen for giving up that 19-yard pass to David Patten on the next play? Or the rest of his teammates for laying down and playing dead in overtime? If the Raiders were truly as good as advertised, they would have found a way to stop the Patriots in regulation.

And they would never have made Rich Gannon run off the final 31 seconds of regulation, either.

Funny how nobody on the Raiders acknowledges what an unreal field goal kick Adam Vinatieri made to tie the game. All they will tell you is "Doesn't matter! Game shoulda been over!" That kick Vinatieri made is hailed by many as the greatest field goal in NFL history. Yikes. That's eighty-something years worth of field goals. And he made one two weeks later that won a Super Bowl. But this one is Numero Uno. The Raiders ought to hold their heads high in that it took a kick like that to help bring them down.

Or, let's go back further. On the drive just before the tuck play, the Raiders have the ball at their own 44, third and one with 2:24 left in the game and the Patriots down to one timeout. The Raiders make that one yard, and they can all but run out the clock. Zack Crockett gets the ball and heads into the middle of the line. Tedy Bruschi makes the play of his career and upends him for no gain. It saves the game and the Patriot season. For Crockett, it further underscores why he, and his team, were non-worthy as championship material.

When you cut to the chase, the tuck play was really insignificant. The Raiders had plenty of other opportunities to put the Patriots away. But the champion Patriots found a way to win. The non-champion Raiders couldn't get the job done. And Coleman was as much a non-factor as the Raiders think he was everything to that game.

As they head into this game Sunday night, it will be interesting to see how, if at all, the Raiders keep their emotions in check. They have some new blood on the team, including former Raider and BC linebacker Bill Romanowski. All he brings is a throwback dirty Raider element to the game, but he bears no grudge. Guys like Allen and Grady Jackson are gone. Who remains will need to ignore Woodson's idiocy and simply play good football within their limits.

But can they, in front of 60,000 crazed lunatics who probably believe in the Easter Bunny, aspire to be like Hulk Hogan, and likely couldn't hold down a job flipping burgers at McDonald's?

Two of their four losses this season were at home in overtime to San Diego and San Francisco. Both of those losses were devastating and deflating. Their loony bird fans had to sit there and watch both losses. Ask the Bolts and the Niners if they cared about what the crowd did, yelled or felt.

Which should suit the Patriots just fine. This is just the kind of game the Patriots can win, if they themselves play within their limits, and most important, play smart and hard.

They are underdogs. They are in a game no one thinks they can win. They feel the lack of respect. They face a team that thinks they are lucky. And, like Pittsburgh in the season opener, they face a team that thinks they are better, and will easily go out there and simply prove it Sunday night.

You all know what happened to poor Pittsburgh.

The Patriots need to make sure Gannon doesn't have anywhere near the night he had in Denver. They need to give Brady time to run the offense. They need Antowain Smith to grind out yards and eat clock. They also need to maintain their poise, in shutting out the lunatic crowd and not committing stupid penalties.

Most of all, the Patriots need to show the Raiders that the best team won in January, and that the best team will prevail Sunday night.

And that the winning team in both games are one and the same.

It's all about victory. Just win, baby.


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