New England vs. Oakland: The Patriots' and Raiders' 5 Most Memorable Matchups
The New England Patriots visit Oakland for a high-powered matchup against the surprising Raiders. After giving up a first-half lead to the Buffalo Bills, Tom Brady and the Patriots are looking for a bounce-back win, but it will not come easily. The Raiders are coming off a huge win over Rex Ryan and his Jets, proving to the NFL that their defense is not impervious.
However, this slideshow is not about which team will win this week. It's not about which team is better or worse, and it certainly isn't about cutting down either team.
It seemed appropriate, because of how well the Raiders have been playing, that we look at some of the most memorable games between these two AFC football clubs.
Neither of these two teams are foreign to controversy, and each have had their fair share of issues with each other, the league and the rulebook. It will be interesting to see how the game turns out today, but let's see what everybody thinks of the list.
5. Dec. 14, 2008: Randy's Return to Oakland
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New England Patriots 49, Oakland Raiders 26
It isn't really clear whether it was the game that was memorable or if it was more so the season being memorable.
Randy Moss returned to Oakland, for the first and only time, in 2008 after being traded to the Patriots prior to the 2007 NFL season. Moss had been somewhat lackluster for the Raiders in two seasons after being traded to them from the Vikings in 2005.
After his record-setting season in 2007, Moss came into the 2008 season bitter after losing the Super Bowl, a goal he had set for himself coming into New England. The expectations were that the Patriots were supposed to come into the new season and play close to level they set the year prior.
Of course, events making this a famous (infamous if you're a Patriots fan) season caused concern for New England.
In the first game of the season against Kansas City, Bernard Pollard of the Chiefs came in on a bull-rush, was pushed into the ground and lunged into Brady's leg. This sent shock waves through the NFL because of how surprising and severe the injury had been.
If that wasn't enough, the Patriots brought in Matt Cassel, who hadn't started a football game since his senior year in high school, to fill in for their star QB. This created the infamous "Brady Rule," which prohibits defenders from hitting QBs below the knee.
This is what made the season probably more memorable than this one game, but the game is included simply because of that. Randy's return to Oakland was made all the more memorable because he was playing with a college backup at QB and had played more like the star wide receiver he was in Minnesota than he ever had in Oakland.
Not for nothing, LaMont Jordan was also making his return to Oakland after being released by them. He had a 12-carry, 97-yard game with a 49-yard TD run, which makes you wonder, who had the better return?
4. Nov. 17, 2002: Raiders Revenge
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Oakland Raiders 27, New England Patriots 20
This game is memorable simply for the fact that it was the first matchup following the Patriots' AFC Divisional Playoff win the year prior. It helps that the Raiders ended up going to the Super Bowl this year and ultimately lost to Jon Gruden, their former coach, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Patriots made a run at beating them late in the game after Kevin Faulk returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but the Raider defense held on this time.
It could be argued that this season may have been the year that started the Raiders' downward slide, because Rich Gannon was hurt in 2003 and was not much of his former self. This season may end that slide, but it seems that they were still suffering post-Super Bowl trauma for much of the last decade.
This game was also interesting in that both teams had solid quarterbacks, but neither recorded a passing TD. Gannon did record a rushing TD, however.
3. Jan. 5, 1986: Decade-Long Playoff Rematch
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New England Patriots 27, Oakland Raiders 20
It was just under a decade after the Patriots lost their AFC Wild Card matchup against the Raiders in 1976 that New England was given a chance to avenge it.
In the 1985-1986 playoffs, the Patriots came into it as one of the two Wild Cards this time, beating the New York Jets to take on the No. 1 seed Raiders once again. It was the first time the two teams had faced each other in the playoffs since that fateful game in 1976.
Earlier in the season, the Raiders beat the Patriots 35-20, so it didn't seem like the Patriots would have much of a chance against them in Oakland.
However, New England shocked the world this time around, beating the Raiders 27-20 and setting up an AFC Championship Game against their rivals, the Miami Dolphins.
This time around, the Patriots held the Raiders to zero points in the second half, scoring 10 points themselves to take the lead for good. They eventually ended up in Super Bowl XX against the Bears, whom they were woefully outmatched against.
Either way, the Patriots managed to finally get playoff redemption from the Raiders nearly 10 years later.
2. Dec. 18, 1976: Playing Rough with Sugar Bear Hamilton
Oakland Raiders 24, New England Patriots 21
The year was 1976 and the New England Patriots came into the playoffs as the AFC Wild Card. Oakland was the No. 1 seed in the AFC and got the Patriots at home in the Coliseum.
The 1976 season was a pretty successful one for New England with Steve Grogan at the helm. They opened the game first with an 86-yard drive and touchdown scored by RB Andy Johnson. Up until the fourth quarter, the Patriots looked like they were in control of the game and possibly were going to upset the No. 1 seed.
This is where things got dicey.
The Raiders scored to make it 21-17 in the remaining quarter, and nearing the end of the game is what made it so memorable (or controversial).
Raiders QB Ken Stabler threw a 3rd-and-long incompletion, but Patriots defensive tackle Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamilton was called for a roughing the passer penalty on the same play, nullifying the incompletion. It put the ball deep in New England territory and set up the eventual winning touchdown.
Many people believe the call was wrong and wasn't a roughing the passer call. Either way, the play was very close and appears that Hamilton hit him just as Stabler threw the ball.
This game allowed Oakland to play the Pittsburgh Steelers and eventually win the Super Bowl.
1. Jan. 19, 2002: The "Tuck Rule" Game
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New England Patriots 16, Oakland Raiders 13
If this game didn't live up to an Oakland Raiders-New England Patriots playoff game, I don't know what does.
To most fans, this game is known as the "Tuck Rule" game; to most Oakland Raiders fans, it's known as the "Snow Job," in reference to the popular belief that the Raiders were unfairly ruled against by the referees.
The Patriots came into this season as a team that many believed had virtually no shot at the Super Bowl, much like many seasons prior.
However, after Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury against the New York Jets earlier in the season, Tom Brady, a sixth-round draft choice the year prior, took his place.
Brady only managed to lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record and the AFC East title.
However, much like the past, the Patriots weren't expected by many people to win this game. Many thought the Raiders would beat them handily and face the Steelers for their chance at another Super Bowl.
That was far from what would take place.
In the vein of Patriots-Raiders games in the past, there had to be something that could be scrutinized and analyzed for years to come.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Patriots were driving down the field, losing 13-10, when the unthinkable happened.
Brady dropped back to pass and Charles Woodson rushed into the backfield hitting him from behind. As it looked, Brady pulled the ball back into his arms and it popped out onto the ground, which the Raiders fell on quickly, seemingly killing the Patriots' season.
However, the referees rushed the field and conferred. They wanted to review the play, which they did for some time. When they finally came back for the determination, they brought up an obscure rule unknown to many called the "Tuck Rule."
What happened afterwards is widely known: The Patriots got themselves into field goal range, kicked the tying field goal and put the game into OT. New England did what they would do multiple times in the years following—work their way into field goal range with clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri kicking the winning field goal.
With that, it created a whirlwind of controversy across Raider nation, as the Patriots eventually became Super Bowl champions.