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Janikowski boots away Titans game

Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2001

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Through all of Sebastian Janikowski's off-field troubles, the Oakland Raiders always have been able to count on his reliable left leg.

Not this time.

Tennessee's Joe Nedney kicked his second short field goal with 1:48 left, and Janikowski missed his third of the night in the final seconds as the Titans beat the playoff-bound Raiders 13-10 Saturday night.

It was the low point of Janikowski's tumultuous career, which has included accusations of bribery while at Florida State and an apparent drug overdose in a San Francisco club two months ago. Janikowski didn't practice this week and missed one day for personal reasons.

Battling a strained groin and rushing his kicks -- as he often does while slumping -- Janikowski missed from 40 and 33 yards before failing to force overtime on the Raiders' final play.

Nedney, a Bay Area native who played at San Jose State, was the Raiders' kicker for three games late in the 1999 season before Oakland cut him in favor of Janikowski, a first-round draft pick.

''It really stinks for Janikowski to miss those kicks,'' Nedney said. ''I talked to him before the game. In the beginning, I saw a guy who was confident. After, I saw a guy who was very upset, and I hope he recovers for next week.''

In Oakland's first 13 games, Janikowski missed just twice in 23 attempts -- one was blocked, the other was from 59 yards.

''I hit it pretty solid, but the ball took off to the right for the second time,'' Janikowski said of the late kick.

''The field was in perfect shape. The setup was perfect. The whole season was perfect. I think I was going a little too fast.''

Tennessee (7-7) became the second visiting team to win at the Coliseum in three games. Before their surprising loss to Arizona last month, the Raiders had won 10 straight at home.

The winning points capped a drive led by Steve McNair, who nearly didn't play because of a lower back strain. McNair, 15-of-27 for 178 yards, completed two long third-down passes to Derrick Mason during the go-ahead drive.

''I can't say enough about McNair,'' Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. ''He was all beat up, and for a quarterback to come out and play like that in the final series says a lot about him. The Titans are just a couple of games away from being one of the elite teams.''

The Raiders, scoreless in the first three quarters, quickly moved the ball inside Tennessee's 30. Janikowski's kick was wide right from 42 yards after a perfect snap and hold.

''The way his luck was going, I didn't really think we were going into overtime,'' Mason said. ''He was having a hard day, and I think his groin was bothering him. When you put a kicker in that position, it's tough.''

Patriots 20, Dolphins 13

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Antowain Smith ran for a career-high 156 yards and a touchdown as New England beat Miami 20-13 on Saturday in the last regular-season game at Foxboro Stadium.

The wrecking ball is scheduled to hit two days after the last home game, but the Patriots' turnaround from last year's 5-11 record gives them a chance for a home playoff game. They will move next season into adjacent CMGi Field.

Their fifth straight win and ninth in 11 games moved them ahead of the Dolphins into first place in the AFC East at 10-5. The Dolphins (9-5) have lost two straight.

New England can clinch its first playoff berth in three years if the New York Jets, Baltimore or Seattle loses Sunday or if Seattle ties. If the Patriots, Dolphins and Jets finish with identical records, the Jets win the division.

49ers 13, Eagles 3

SAN FRANCISCO -- Derek Smith made two exceptional defensive plays, and Terrell Owens caught a 32-yard touchdown pass with 6:52 left as San Francisco handed Philadelphia its first road loss.

Playing for little more than playoff position, the 49ers (11-3) got yet another sparkling performance from a young defense led by Smith, their hard-hitting linebacker.

Later, Garcia and Owens broke San Francisco's offense out of its doldrums with a scoring strike that clinched the game. With a handful of big plays, the 49ers finished their home schedule 7-1 and countered Philadelphia's much more consistent effort.

The Eagles (9-5) could have wrapped up a playoff berth and their first NFC East title since 1988. Instead, Philadelphia got just three points from two trips inside San Francisco's 5, and the Eagles' pass defense failed at a critical time.



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