Patriots preview: Patriots protect their house

Glen Farley

It shall forever be a Patriots first.

More than 29 years have passed, and still it remains a Patriots last. The Patriots lost the first home playoff game they ever played as the old Houston Oilers rang in a new year at the old Schaefer Stadium, dealing New England a 31-14 beating on Dec. 31, 1978, in a game that saw Dan Pastorini rear back and throw three touchdown passes, two to tight end Mike Barber, in the second quarter.

Since then, the Patriots have been the embodiment of the modern-day Under Armour commercial.

They have protected their house.

Since that New Year's Eve nearly three decades ago, the Patriots have hosted nine postseason games - the most memorable, of course, being the Foxboro Stadium finale known as the "Snow Bowl" - and they have always lived to play another day.

As the No. 1 seed in the AFC, a spot they also earned four years ago, the 2007 Patriots have put themselves in a position to make themselves at home.

With two wins at home, the Patriots will hit the road for Super Bowl XLII at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 3.

"Just being at home and playing in front of your home crowd and being around your family and not having to travel on Saturday, it's huge for us," said safety Rodney Harrison, a member of the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXVIII and XXXIX championship teams. "It's a chance to get extra rest, spend time at home with our families and just be here in front of our home crowd where everyone's cheering for you instead of booing."

The Patriots' all-time home winning percentage of .900 dwarfs recent NFL history. Over the 10-season span from 1997 through 2006, NFL home playoff teams enjoyed a 68-32 (.680) advantage.

"It's always nice to be home, to be with your surroundings that you have here," Patriots linebacker Junior Seau agreed, "and to have your fan base here with you and not to have to travel all the time is obviously a big advantage."

Beyond that, there are potential outside factors.


The Patriots' 28-3 win against Pittsburgh in the 1996 AFC divisional playoffs at Foxboro Stadium was played in a fog that went beyond the one Kordell Stewart (oh-for-10 passing) was operating under. Their 16-13 overtime victory over Oakland in the 2001 AFC divisional playoffs was staged in a raging blizzard that everyone but Adam Vinatieri seemed to notice.

Their 17-14 win over Tennessee in a 2003 AFC divisional playoff matchup at Gillette Stadium marked the coldest game in franchise history (four degrees).

"I'm sure it's going to be a factor throughout," quarterback Tom Brady said in addressing the New England weather. "I've been in these winter time conditions, practiced in the snow and the rain and the sleet, and it's nice (that) the field we have (has) great footing.

"I always like it a little snowy out there so everyone doesn't have great footing. It makes it kind of easier to throw the ball. I like when everyone is on skates out there."

It's that time of year when football is often played on skates.

So long as they're at home, though, the Patriots are on the power play.