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Taking Heart From History

Coach Jerry Moore and Appalachian State's victory over then-No. 5 Michigan inspired Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen to compare the Redskins-Patriots matchup to that upset.
Coach Jerry Moore and Appalachian State's victory over then-No. 5 Michigan inspired Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen to compare the Redskins-Patriots matchup to that upset. (By Duane Burleson -- Associated Press)

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By George Solomon
Sunday, October 28, 2007

Was it 35 years ago when a heavily favored, Super Bowl-bound Redskins team went to Foxborough, Mass., to play a New England team so disrespected that a headline writer for The Post described the Patriots this way: "Pats are Patsies"?

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"Why would you guys do that?" angry Redskins coach George Allen asked. "You'll wake up these guys, make them angry."

If Allen and some of his players were dismissed as worrywarts, the Patriots proved them prophetic. New England won, 24-23, handing the Redskins one of only three regular season losses in 1972.

This afternoon in Foxborough the roles are reversed. The 4-2 Redskins are 16 1/2 -point underdogs to the 7-0 Patriots -- a team Las Vegas Sports Consultants odds director Tony Sinisi calls "the team of the year in the NFL. A rarity in the NFL, where parity rules. A team operating in a different world from everyone else. A team that not only wins the game, but covers the spread."

To which Redskins Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen blurted: "Tell me this isn't Appalachian State-Michigan? If you're a player, you love this challenge. There's nothing better in sports than everyone telling you 'you can't do this.' What more do you want than everyone saying 'no way' to you. 'You can't win.'

"That's why they play the game," said Jurgensen, who often carried the underdog role for the Redskins in the 1960s. "So many things can happen. We won some games like this. It feels great when you score the upset."

Can the Redskins win today?

"Yes," Jurgensen said "The defense will play well. The offense has to sustain drives and score touchdowns when they get in the red zone."

But can Tom Brady and the Patriots lose? "Yes," replied Tom Matte, a running back for the Baltimore Colts -- a 16-7 loser to the 17-point underdog New York Jets in Super Bowl III in 1969 -- one of the truly great upsets in NFL history.

"It could happen," said Matte, a commentator in Baltimore for ESPN Radio and MASN. "The Patriots are a machine, but this is the NFL. And you don't take a Joe Gibbs-coached team lightly. We didn't take the Jets lightly; Don Shula [Baltimore's coach] prepared us. But we were outplayed and outcoached. Goofy stuff happened. Balls bounced the wrong way for us. I had the best game of my life, but it didn't matter. I was decimated."

Still think about the game? "[Expletive] right I do. I always think about that game."

Kickoff today at 4:15. Who knows?


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