AFC PLAYOFFS

Patriots, Titans play it cool about the weather


New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) loses the ball after being brought down by Oakland Raiders' Charles Woodson, right, while Greg Biekert (54) moves to recover the ball in the fourth quarter of their AFC Division Playoff game in Foxboro, Mass. Saturday night, Jan. 19, 2002. The play was appealed, and the Patriots retained possession. The Patriots return to the playoffs on Saturday night, Jan. 10, 2004, when the Tennessee Titans come to Foxboro for a night game that will be played in subfreezing, and perhaps even subzero, temperatures.

The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 12:51 a.m.

FOXBORO, Mass.-- Security says it's fine if fans bring sleeping bags to the AFC semifinal playoff game at Gillette Field here Saturday night. Not for sleeping but for staying unfrozen.

On Boston television, the weatherman says breathlessly, "We're going to see the kind of record-low temperatures we haven't seen since the 19th century."

So it's going to be cold for kickoff at 8:15 p.m. EST, when the New England Patriots (14-2) play the Tennessee Titans (13-4).

The Patriots, who are on a 12-game win streak, practiced at night Friday, hoping to prepare for temperatures expected to hover near zero at game time. Cornerback Ty Law bragged that he wouldn't wear long sleeves, drawing only laughter from teammates.

"It's going to be cold," quarterback Tom Brady said. "Both teams will have to deal with it."

Law made the big play when the Patriots beat the Titans, 38-30, during the regular season, returning Steve McNair's errant pass 65 yards for a touchdown with 1:49 left.

McNair is struggling with a sore ankle and foot, and Titan running back Eddie George hasn't practiced this week because of a sprained ankle and a dislocated shoulder he suffered in Tennessee's 20-17 victory over Baltimore last week in the wild-card playoffs.

Tennessee Coach Jeff Fisher said of George: "He's still got some swelling. It's improving daily, though, and he'll play in the game. That's not a concern of ours."

And McNair, Fisher said, had two good days of practice "for the first time in a long time."

The Patriots have won 14 of 16 games -- without a 1,000-yard rusher or a Pro Bowl receiver and while ranking only 20th in the league in yards per play (4.8) and 27th in yards rushing (89.6). The Patriots excel in playing punishing defense and have a confident Brady. Since throwing seven interceptions in two early-season losses, Brady has thrown only five more -- and 23 touchdown passes.

"Things are jelling with me," Brady said. "I'm in a real good rhythm."

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The Patriots led the league in defensive touchdowns and shut out three teams. And Fisher says he has confidence in the offense.

"And we sure aren't afraid of weather," he added.

Fisher and Patriot Coach Bill Belichick both participated in a playoff game at Chicago in 1986 when it was 14 degrees. Belichick was an assistant coach for the New York Giants, Fisher an injured Bear defensive back who walked the sidelines. The Bears won, 21-0.

"Once the game starts, you forget the weather," Fisher said.

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