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Vinatieri was up and back at 'em

HOUSTON -- Players are taught from the moment they set foot in the Patriots locker room that looking ahead is a cardinal sin. Looking ahead a week or two, or especially to the playoffs, is unheard of. Players can't get caught up in the schedule game the way writers and fans do.

However, if you're Adam Vinatieri, and you've already kicked one of the most pressurized kicks in Super Bowl history, how can you not think about a return trip to yesterday's venue, Reliant Stadium, for this season's Super Bowl?

"Oh, we would never think that far ahead," said Vinatieri, a comment that will please the Patriots' powers-that-be who monitor what the players say to the media. "It didn't even cross my mind, but with as much energy as it took out of everybody in this game, it felt like a playoff game. To be honest, we're not even looking at it that way. We've got a tough opponent in [Indianapolis] next week, and there's a lot of good teams in front of us, that's for sure."

That said, this was just as much a scouting trip as it was a regular-season game. Vinatieri, of course, won the game with a 28-yard field goal with 41 seconds left in overtime on a day in which he missed from 38 yards and had one blocked from 37.

Before yesterday, Vinatieri never had missed indoors, connecting on 30 straight field goals. Though it was balmy, the stadium's retractable roof was closed because of rain in the area.

Vinatieri nailed his first attempt, a 21-yarder in the second quarter, but his second attempt, from 38 yards with six seconds left in the first half, hit the right upright as the Patriots failed to extend their 10-3 lead. He made a 32-yarder in the fourth, but his first attempt at a winner in overtime was blocked from 37 yards.

At that point, Vinatieri was just hoping for "another chance to win it. And with the way our defense was playing out there, there was a good chance it was going to come back to me." And when it did, he won the game.

Vinatieri couldn't hide his disappointment about his first indoor miss right before halftime.

"That was frustrating," he said. "If I hit four more inches to the left, you make it. I pushed it just a tad right. I thought it was good from the get-go and I thought it was good right before it hit the post. [Missing in a dome] doesn't happen very often, but the longer you play the more opportunities you have to miss one. The important thing is we won the game, we found a way to get it done. There were a lot of mistakes and a lot of dumb things that happened, but getting a win and getting out of here is a good thing."

The block by Ramon Walker, who also blocked a Ken Walter punt, appeared clean.

"We'll have to go back and watch the film, but it sure looked like the guy blocked it pretty good," said Vinatieri. "I'm sure there was a little penetration in there. It's one of those I thought we had it and all of a sudden it was going back the other way."

With all the activity surrounding Vinatieri, who has made 15 winning field goals in his career, he didn't let the previous kick bother him.

"If you kick it crappy the time before then you're going out there and thinking a little bit about it, but I felt I hit that one [that was blocked] pretty well. You just go out and do your thing again and take care of your own business and hopefully I put it straight through," said Vinatieri.

in today's globe
 DOLPHINS 24, REDSKINS 23: With Fiedler game, Miami on rebound
 PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Faulk sitting in a power position
 ON FOOTBALL: Messy but satisfying
 PATRIOTS' NEXT FOE: INDIANAPOLIS: Ailing Colts do bang-up job
 PATRIOTS 23, TEXANS 20: Escape artists
 DAN SHAUGHNESSY: Brady's the late-game master
 FOOTBALL MONDAY: No drop in his resolve
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Next game:
Nov. 30 at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 4 Radio: WBCN (104.1)

afc east standings
  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 9 2 0 .818 19.9 15.9
Dolphins 7 4 0 .636 18.3 15.5
Bills 4 7 0 .364 15.7 17.0
Jets 4 7 0 .364 19.1 20.1
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