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Pats, ankle hamper Jaguars' Means RB rushes for only 43 yards, leading to stalled offense

FOXBORO, MASS. — FOXBORO, Mass. -- Controlling Jacksonville Jaguars running back Natrone Means was a huge part of New England's game plan, and the Patriots, one week after shutting down Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis, cooled off Means in similar fashion during their 20-6 victory in yesterday's AFC championship game.

Means, held to 43 yards on 19 carries, found little room to run inside against the Patriots, who did a good job of plugging gaps between Jacksonville's offensive tackles, forcing Means to run wide.

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And it didn't help Jacksonville's offensive fortunes when Means went down with a sprained right ankle with about six minutes left in the first half.

Means finished the first half with only 11 yards rushing. He did return to rush for 31 yards in the second half, with his ankle heavily taped. He shared running duties with James Stewart, who was effective enough (seven carries, 40 yards) before losing the late fumble that sealed the Jaguars' fate.

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But the offense was never the same without the threat of Means, who had energized the Jaguars' playoff run with 315 yards in two postseason games.

"I started getting real stiff standing around," said Means, whose longest run from scrimmage was 9 yards. "There was so much tape on it [the ankle]. I felt like my foot was about to explode."

Said quarterback Mark Brunell: "Anytime you lose a player of his caliber, it affects you. He was able to come back a little bit. But we weren't able to get into that groove we've been in for weeks. We didn't have that balance."

Ex-Terps QB reserves seat

New England reserve quarterback Scott Zolak has been to the last three Super Bowls as a spectator, but the former University of Maryland standout now will go as a player.

"I don't know what to expect right now," Zolak said. "For the next three days, we're just going to go out and celebrate. The reality is that we're not going down there just to walk around like we're on Broadway, but to win the championship."

Expression of sympathy

Bill Parcells is happy to be going to the Super Bowl, but he held back his elation out of respect for an old friend. Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin was an assistant under Parcells when they were with the New York Giants.

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"I have very strong personal feelings for him [Coughlin] and as I said before the game, it is not easy to play against people that are your former associates and close friends," Parcells said. "So, I know how he feels tonight and it could just as easily have been me. I would like to state how much that I respect him and what he has accomplished down there in Jacksonville in just two short years."

Lights out

An 11-minute delay in yesterday's game occurred with 7: 32 remaining in the second quarter when a fuse blew in a Massachusetts Electric power transformer on Route 1. The blown fuse interrupted service to parts of Foxboro Stadium. Crews from Massachusetts Electric were on site for yesterday's game and responded to the problem.

Money talks

Patriots owner Bob Kraft said he would like to keep his team in the Boston area, but not if it means losing money.

"When I brought this team, I wanted to keep it in New England. That has always been my goal," Kraft said. "But I can't keep putting more of my family's own money into this.

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"This [Foxboro] stadium was built awhile ago and it doesn't allow for me to be competitive with other teams down the road. Sure, we're competitive today, but with new stadiums in Carolina and other places how can we be on the same level playing field much longer? How can I convince a player to come here in the snow without a dome or if I can't deliver the competitive signing bonuses?"

The stadium -- built for $6 million in 1971 -- did not fare so well in the AFC championship spotlight. Even beyond the game-delaying power outage, caused by problems outside the stadium, complaints about the building abounded.

Quarterback Drew Bledsoe fretted that for the second consecutive game there was no hot water left when he got to the shower. Because of the cramped press box, some reporters were forced to type on their laps in an auxiliary box or watch the game on a television in a lounge.

One reporter grumbled as he scrambled to file his story: "If they paid $6 million for it, they paid too much."

Pub Date: 1/13/97


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