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Cassel, Moss help Patriots stay tied atop AFC East

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Randy Moss pointed to his name on the back of his jersey after each touchdown catch, as if he needed to introduce himself to the fans who rarely saw that kind of performance in his two seasons in Oakland.

Moss caught two of Matt Cassel's career-high four touchdown passes in his first game against the Raiders since his trade to New England last season, leading the Patriots to a 49-26 victory Sunday.

Four downs



» The Patriots have won their last 40 games when leading at the half and their last 39 games when leading entering the fourth quarter (both NFL records since 1970).

» The Patriots won at Oakland for the first time since 1978.

» Oakland's 35 points allowed in the first half is the most they've given up in the first half since before the 1970 merger.

» JaMarcus Russell recorded his second career two-touchdown game; his 242 passing yards is the second most in his career.

"That's just Randy being Randy," said LaMont Jordan, who added a 49-yard touchdown run against his former team. "I was definitely happy for him, especially the way the Oakland media had no good things to say about him. ... We came here together to wear the Oakland uniform and to try to turn that program around. It didn't work out and we both left on bad terms."

While Moss and Jordan got a dose of revenge against their former team, this week was even more personal for Cassel, whose father, Greg, died Monday.

Cassel left the team briefly during the week to be with his family, but looked sharp by completing 18 of 30 passes for 218 yards. He received a warm hug from coach Bill Belichick after the game and cradled a ball as he walked to the locker room. Cassel thanked the team for the support he got but did not want to address anything else about his emotions.

"He was very professional this week," defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. "He could have very easily said, 'I've got to go handle this,' but it just shows you the commitment he has to the team. To play with something like that on your heart is tough. I thank him for playing through that."

Cassel's play helped keep New England (9-5) in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with Miami and the Jets. The Patriots are also tied with Baltimore for the second wild-card spot as they try to make it back to the playoffs despite losing star quarterback Tom Brady to a season-ending injury in the opener.

"We're approaching it like we're in the playoffs already, and each game has a little more weight to it," said Sammy Morris, who ran for 117 yards and a score.

The Raiders (3-11) fell behind 35-14 less than 18 minutes into the game, allowing the most first-half points against them since the merger in 1970. They also became the first team ever to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons, the latest low point in a long stretch of them.

"It's tough to tell the guys to keep fighting, just to keep pushing, that things are going to turn around," said JaMarcus Russell, who threw two TD passes for Oakland. "Everybody looks at each other like, 'When?' It's really depressing."

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The fans had plenty to boo about, from the ineptness of the home team to every touch by Moss or Jordan, who never fulfilled expectations during their time in Oakland.

Moss arrived with much fanfare after his trade from Minnesota in 2005, getting a police escort on his way to the introductory news conference. Yet he quickly soured in the toxic environment with the Raiders, forcing a trade to New England before last season.

Moss revived his career immediately, setting a record with 23 touchdown catches last season to go with 10 this season. Moss capped New England's second drive of the game by beating Rashad Baker to the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard catch before preening for the crowd.

"There was a lot of focus in Randy this week," teammate Wes Welker said. "I think he really wanted to win this game and show what kind of a player he is."

He added a 9-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, pointing to his name once again. Moss finished with five catches for 67 yards.

The Patriots started fast, becoming the first team this season to score touchdowns on its first four offensive possessions. Cassel threw TD passes to Kevin Faulk, Moss and Welker, with Morris also scoring on a 29-yard run.

Ellis Hobbs returned a kick 95 yards for another score, giving New England five touchdowns in the first 17:14 of the game.

"We had some issues with communication there in the first half, getting everything matched up," Raiders coach Tom Cable said. "We're not on the same page in terms of communication and that's something we've got to fix."

The Raiders trailed 21-0 before recording their initial first down. After Justin Fargas' 1-yard run on third-and-1 was greeted with mock applause, the Raiders generated some real cheers on the next play when Johnnie Lee Higgins caught a 56-yard TD pass for Oakland's second offensive touchdown in the first half all season.

The Raiders got another score when Justin Miller returned a kick 91 yards following Welker's touchdown, but that celebration was short-lived when Hobbs answered with his return. That was the third touchdown in a 28-second span.

Notes: Commissioner Roger Goodell attended the game. ... New England's 277 yards rushing were its most since getting 281 against Cincinnati in 1985. ... The only time the Raiders allowed more points at home came in a 55-21 loss to San Diego in 1981.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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