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Patriots slip past Raiders

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FOXBORO, Mass. — A snowstorm and an apparent fumble didn't stop Tom Brady and the New England Patriots from sliding into the AFC championship game.

Helped by a controversial video replay that overruled the fumble call with 1:43 left, the Patriots beat the Oakland Raiders 16-13 Saturday night in overtime after trailing 13-3 going into the fourth quarter.

Adam Vinatieri, whose 45-yard field goal tied the game with 27 seconds left in regulation time, gave the Patriots the victory with a 23-yard field goal with 8:25 gone in overtime.

The Patriots won their seventh straight game and will face the winner of Sunday's game between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Raiders left the field upset over referee Walt Coleman's controversial replay decision.

The Patriots appeared finished when Greg Biekert recovered the apparent fumble. When the call was overturned, an incensed Oakland coach Jon Gruden ran toward Coleman.

Coleman ruled Brady's arm was moving forward and the play was an incompletion. Brady apparently was pulling the ball back in when hit by a blitzing Charles Woodson. The decision left the Patriots with the ball at the Oakland 42.

Five plays later, Vinatieri lined the tying 45-yard field goal through the snowflakes and the uprights.

The Raiders never got the ball in overtime as Brady, the second-year sensation, drove them from the New England 34 to a fourth-and-3 at the Oakland 27. He then connected with David Patten for a 6-yard gain. Antowain Smith then ran five times for 16 yards.

Vinatieri ran onto the field to wild cheers from snow-covered fans, then connected for the winning kick as flash cameras flickered.

The Patriots, who finished in the AFC East cellar at 5-11 last season and started 0-2 this season, are 12-3 since Brady succeeded an injured Drew Bledsoe in the third game.

"I knew I was throwing the ball," Brady said of the replay call. "I was trying to get rid of the ball. I'm glad they ruled it the way they did."

Gruden disagreed.

"I thought it was a fumble," he said. "We thought that, but . . . He's the one that matters, and we've got to live with it."

The Patriots won their seventh straight game despite a game-long snowfall that seemed to stymie Brady through the first three quarters. But he was outstanding in the fourth quarter and overtime and ended up 32-for-52 for 312 yards.

Oakland's Rich Gannon, the AFC's top-rated passer, was 17-for-31 for 159 yards.

The game may have been the last at Foxboro Stadium, open in 1971. The Patriots will play next season at CMGi Field. If Baltimore beats Pittsburgh Sunday, the Patriots will have one more home game.