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Monday, December 15, 2008

"How to ruin a once proud franchise" by Al Davis

It's hard to imagine two professional sports teams taking a more divergent path than the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders after they met in the 2001 playoffs. The Patriots pulled out that controversial game in overtime, a springboard to their first of three Super Bowl titles in four seasons.

Sure the Raiders made the next Super Bowl but they lost that to the Bucs and then since then they've been living on NFL's version of skid row with the Detroit Lions.

How else can you describe such a putrid franchise after yesterday's joke of a game in Oakland?

After two weeks on the west coast, the Patriots (9-5) came home with a 49-26 win that wasn't anywhere near that close.

New England scored on its first three drives and led 21-0 with 3:43 left in the first quarter.

The Raiders (3-11) certainly scored some points of their own but the outcome of this one was decided in the first half.

Matt Cassel's dad died unexpectedly last week but any thoughts of that being a distraction were quickly erased as Cassel set a career-high with four touchdown passes. He finished 18-for-30 for 218 yards and an interception (which clanged off stone hands Ben Watson who was wide open).

Even more impressive was the Pats three-headed rushing attack that for one day at least resembled the Giants' vaunted trio.

Sammy Morris (14 carries, 117 yards), LaMont Jordan (12 carries, 97 yards) and Kevin Faulk (45 yards rushing, 66 yards receiving) ran through the biggest holes in California, this side of your garden variety porn stars.

Faulk began the barrage with a 7-yard catch and run for a score (with a great block from Wes Welker).

Ex-Raider Randy Moss (5 catches, 67 yards) got his revenge for a couple wasted years of his life by hauling in a 20-yard pass from Cassel.

Morris made it 21-0 with a 29-yard run.

Oakland got on the board late in the first quarter when JaMarcus Russell hit Johnnie Lee Higgins with a 56-yard TD.

Welker (6 catches, 69 yards) scored a rare TD with a 13-yard catch.

Then on back-to-back plays, the Raiders and Patriots had kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Justin Miller (91 yards) did the honors for Oakland while Ellis Hobbs (95 yards) answered for New England.

In the third quarter, Moss' second TD (9-yards) put the Pats up 42-14 and sent many of the Raider faithful back to their various prisons and rehab facilities.

Still, in a driving rainstorm and watching their team get embarrassed, there was something very captivating about fans sticking it out. They are called many things but Raider fans are not frauds.

Russell (17-for-31, 242 yards, interception) completed his erratic day with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ronald Curry.

In garbage time, Jordan (another ex-Raider) scampered 49 yards (longest run of the year for New England) and rookie stud Darren McFadden (46 yards rushing; 68 yards receiving) ran in from 11 yards away.

There were only two bad things yesterday for the Patriots. Left tackle Matt Light left the game and appeared to have seriously injured his shoulder. Also, the Jets and Dolphins both hung on to win close games, meaning the Patriots are still tied with those two teams.

Only two games remain and the Patriots have to win out. They might not even make it if that happens but it would be surprising nonetheless.

The Cardinals, who have already clinched a playoff spot and are terrible on the road (especially on the east coast) come to Gillette next weekend. Hopefully Mother Nature helps the Pats out with some classic New England winter weather.

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