Patriots hope to continue home dominance
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Stevan Ridley's father switched his allegiance from the Oakland Raiders once his son was drafted by the New England Patriots.
The running back's dad sure picked a winner.
The Patriots are 25-4, including playoff games, at Gillette Stadium starting in 2011, when Ridley was drafted. They're two-touchdown favorites to make that 26-4 when they open their home season against the Raiders on Sunday.
''It's going to be awesome,'' Ridley said. ''My dad's old favorite team was the Raiders, until, of course, I became a Patriot. So we've got about 14 people coming up this week, and my mom's really excited about it. The family's going to be here, so it's going to be an exciting atmosphere to come back here to Foxborough and get in the home stadium.''
The Patriots are 11-1 in home openers since they moved into Gillette in 2002. The only loss came when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal attempt on the next to last play - after making three longer ones - as the Arizona Cardinals won 20-18 in 2012.
That was one of three home losses for Tom Brady that season. But dating back to 2006, the quarterback is 56-5 in his past 61 home games, 49-3 in the regular season.
His other two losses at Gillette in 2012 were to teams that went to the Super Bowl, Baltimore and San Francisco.
The 2011 home loss was to the New York Giants, who beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl that season.
And Brady's only home loss in the 2010 season was in the playoffs to the New York Jets, who made it to the AFC championship game.
So the Raiders, 32nd and last in the AP Pro32, figure to be Brady's next conquest.
''We always love playing at home with our fans,'' special teams captain Matthew Slater said. ''They give us so much support. They give us an extra boost of energy and we feel like we've been all over the country and haven't played a game at home.''
The Patriots opened the season in hot Miami weather with a 33-20 loss to the Dolphins. Then they went to Minnesota, where they beat the Vikings 30-7.
The schedule gets tougher after Sunday with the next four home games against Cincinnati, the Jets, Chicago and Denver. For now, the Patriots are concentrating on Oakland.
''Home games are so important because you only get so many of them,'' Slater said, ''but each and every week is a season within itself. So our total focus is on playing the Raiders, whether it was home, away or out in the backyard.''
Offenses sometimes struggle to communicate signals in front of rowdy road crowds.
The Patriots won't have to worry about that Sunday.
''On offense, you don't use the silent count,'' right tackle Sebastian Vollmer said. ''You've got to take pride in where you play, so you want to keep your record clean at home. Obviously, you want to do that on the road, too, but it doesn't always work.''
In the past five regular seasons, the Patriots are 37-3 at home and 24-16 on the road. They're a perfect 8-0 at Gillette in four of the past seven seasons, including 5-3 in 2008 when Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.
Cheering the Patriots and booing the opponents help but only go so far.
Coach Bill Belichick has a different answer for his team's success at home.
''Good players,'' he said. ''Winning games in this league is all about having good players. I've been fortunate to have a lot of them. Players win games.''
The Patriots have a lot more good ones than the Raiders. And while Ridley is running in his No. 22 jersey, he expects his father to be wearing a replica in the stands.
''He'll be in 2-2 all the way, man,'' Ridley said. ''No black and silver for him.''
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