One More Time, With Lots of Bad Feelings

Times Staff Writer

The New York Jets were annoyed last month when their game at Oakland was halted for several minutes so Tim Brown could be recognized for the 1,000th reception of his career. The Raiders were trailing at the time but took the lead on the next play and never surrendered it on the way to a 26-20 victory.

Asked this week about the Jets' complaints, Brown was unsympathetic.

"That's something they're probably upset about now, but five, 10 years from now they'll be telling their kids and grandkids about it in the future, that they were there," he said. "But it's a part of this game. That's part of history."

Once again, the Raiders are looking to make the Jets a part of history. They will play host to New York today in a divisional playoff game that pits two cresting teams that, frankly, don't think much of each other.

That bad blood was flowing last month, when Jet defensive tackle Josh Evans essentially told reporters Raider guard Frank Middleton was a no-talent cheap-shot artist who had to hold because he couldn't block legally. Those words were relayed to Middleton, who uses them as extra incentive.

"I remember. I remember all that," Middleton told reporters last week. "I'll be there on Sunday. He's got to come back on Sunday. And if he didn't like it then, he's sure not going to like it now."

Middleton discounted New York's 41-0 romp over Indianapolis in the first round.

"The Colts are not one of the better teams in the league, so [the Jets] don't impress me," Middleton said.

The Jets have their own strong opinions. The way they see it, they were driving on the Raiders late in their Dec. 2 game and probably would have won had time not expired on them.

"I think if you look at that game, we just ran out of time," Jet guard Dave Szott said. "It's not like they clearly beat us."

That loss has haunted quarterback Chad Pennington, who has emerged as one of the NFL's best young talents. He has thrown 145 consecutive passes without an interception and his team has beaten its last three opponents by a combined 113-34.

The Jets are a league-best 11-5 on the road the last two seasons, and they're playing the Raiders for the fourth time in 13 months. The teams met in last season's finale, which the Jets won in Oakland, then on the same field six days later in the first round of the playoffs. The Raiders won the rematch.

It's no simple task to beat the Raiders, who overcame a four-game losing streak to go 7-1 in the second half of the season.

Led by NFL most valuable player Rich Gannon, they clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by closing the regular season with victories over Denver and Kansas City at home.

"We're on a roll, aren't we?" tackle Lincoln Kennedy said. "There's something to be said for that. Just because we didn't have a game last week, that doesn't mean we've cooled off."

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