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Champions open new stadium

An anticipated game against the Steelers kicks into another gear for the Patriots because of Gillette Field.

©Associated Press
September 9, 2002

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The Patriots are set for what they call the "the most anticipated home game in franchise history."

The Super Bowl champions open their new stadium, Gillette Field, and defense of their title tonight against the Steelers in a rematch of last season's AFC title game. For Pittsburgh, it's an early chance at revenge after a 24-17 loss to the Patriots that cost it a Super Bowl appearance.

"I think there is an excitement that naturally exists when you have a new stadium with the atmosphere with the fans," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "The players buy right into it."

New England went on to beat the Rams 20-17 in the Super Bowl, but some Steelers were bitter about their loss in the AFC Championship Game. Some even said they were better than the Patriots.

A sellout crowd is expected. The Patriots opened the preseason Aug. 17 against Philadelphia in their new stadium, a much better venue than the old Foxboro Stadium.

There's a difference in the price, too. To the Patriots, it's $318-million more than the $7-million it cost to build Foxboro.

Now the Patriots have the chance to open their new stadium for their faithful fans.

"Look around," kicker Adam Vinatieri said. "The stadium is very nice for the fans, which will hopefully gets them fired up, which in turn gets us fired up."

* * *

OF NOTE: As usual, few give the Pats much of a chance. They can't possibly pull off another big season with their lack of talent, can they? Ask the Steelers after this one. They will be believers, though they've won six of the previous seven meetings. The Pats' AFC championship win last season at Pittsburgh was no fluke. Neither will their win be today. The Pats usually play well in home openers, winning five of the past seven, and had a solid preseason (3-1).

FRY'S PROMISE: Patriots 16, Steelers 14.

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