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NFL

Raiders clinch AFC's top seed

©Associated Press
December 29, 2002

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Raiders worked their "bad weather plan" to near perfection.

They just ran and ran and ran.

Charlie Garner made running in deep puddles and a steady downpour look easy, grinding out yards in Oakland's 24-0 victory over the Chiefs on Saturday.

Garner carried 29 times for 135 yards and a touchdown as the Raiders locked up the top seed for the AFC playoffs and a much-needed bye they will use to get healthy. They shut out Kansas City for the first time.

"I pride myself in being able to go out and run the football in any conditions," said Garner, who for the first time since coming from the 49ers last season was not limited in his carries.

"Ever since I came over I wanted (that chance). It didn't present itself until today," he said. "When it does, you take it."

The Chiefs had to win and have several teams help them in order to make the playoffs. They missed the postseason for the fifth straight season.

Rich Gannon completed four of his first five passes, but finished 7-for-14 for a season-low 79 yards and a touchdown.

Gannon needed 475 yards to break one of the league's most prestigious records: Dan Marino's 5,084 yards passing in 1984. Gannon also fell short of becoming the second quarterback to go over 5,000 yards in a season. He needed 390 to do that.

AP STORY OF THE YEAR: The football flew through the flakes and between the uprights in the wintry New England night. Long snapper Lonie Paxton flopped on his back and carved a snow angel on the field.

That celebration of the winning field goal in the Patriots' first playoff victory of 2002, in overtime over Oakland, wiped away a legacy of mediocrity.

Two weeks later, Adam Vinatieri kicked another winner on the final play -- this one in the warmth of the Superdome in the Super Bowl.

The Patriots' improbable rise from a 5-11 last-place team in 2000 to Super Bowl champions was voted the Associated Press' story of the year by member newspapers and broadcasters.

It beat the story of baseball's labor dispute, which ended with a new contract for players.

The Patriots received 15 first-place votes and 486 points. The baseball labor strife that ended Aug.30, just 31/2 hours before a strike deadline, got the most first-place votes, 18, and 387 points, but the Patriots had a 19-7 edge in second-place votes.

The figuring skating judging scandal at the Winter Olympics finished third, followed by the first World Series title for the Angels, who beat the Giants in seven games.

Rounding out the top 10: Lance Armstrong winning a fourth straight Tour de France; the death of Ted Williams and the family dispute over whether the former Boston Red Sox slugger's body should be cryonically frozen or cremated; Emmitt Smith breaking Walter Payton's NFL rushing record; Serena Williams winning three Grand Slam tennis titles; Tiger Woods winning six golf tournaments and becoming the first in 30 years to win the first two Grand Slams; and the World Cup, in which the U.S. soccer team's quarterfinal appearance was its best showing since 1930.

COLTS: Indianapolis placed wide receiver Qadry Ismail on the injured list. Ismail suffered a concussion Dec.22.

RAMS: Scott Covington will be the fourth starting quarterback of the season, making his first career start Monday night.

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