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Final Chapter For Brady-Woodson?

BOSTON (CBS) -- One has made a career throwing touchdown passes, while the other has made a career trying to prevent them.

Both will someday be enshrined in Canton, taking their place among the greats of the game.

On Sunday, Tom Brady and Charles Woodson, former Michigan teammates, will square off for the sixth time in their illustrious football careers. While Brady's Patriots are once again hunting for a Super Bowl championship, Woodson's Raiders are floundering at the bottom of the NFL.

But no matter the state of their current teams one thing is certain: Both will be completely focused on Sunday's game and ready to give their best effort possible. They've played that way throughout their careers, and will continue to do so until they decide they're not up to that grind every Sunday.

Brady owns a 4-1 record against his fellow Michigan Man, who he shared the field with at "The Big House" in 1997 -- a 12-0 season where Michigan was crowned National Champions.

While Brady is a big dog now, Woodson was the big man on campus back then. A shutdown corner who caused nightmares throughout the NCAA, Woodson's eight interceptions as a junior earned him numerous awards including the Heisman trophy, making him the first predominantly defensive player to take home that hardware. Meanwhile, Brady was playing backup to Brian Griese and wouldn't become the Wolverines' starter until the following season when he led the team to a Big Ten title.

With both players now 37, they have lost a bit off their games. But Brady knows better than to doubt what Woodson can bring to the field.

"He looks phenomenal to me. I've known him for a long time. I've practiced against Charles when I was in college. We've known each other for 20 years. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, as a person, as a friend, and he looks phenomenal back there," Brady said earlier this week. "He's a big playmaker for that defense, and he gets his hands on a lot of balls – not only in the pass game but in the run game. He's trying to strip the ball out on every play. He's a great tackler. He's got great anticipation. He's someone that I really have to know where he's at on every play."

The resume is impressive for Woodson, who has 57 career interceptions, tied for 12th all-time, over his 17-year carer. He's returned 11 of those for touchdowns, which is tied for second in NFL history.

In their six previous matchups, five regular season and one postseason game, Brady has thrown nine scores against Woodson-led defenses, averaging 239 yards per game.

Woodson has 21 tackles and a forced fumble in the six prior contests, and of course, one very memorable near forced fumble in their first showdown.

The play has been written about thousands of times, argued about millions of times, and has probably caused a brawl or 10. And it always seems to surface when the former college teammates square off.

Patriots fans will remember the 2002 AFC Divisional Round playoff game between Brady's Pats and Woodson's Raiders as the "Snow Bowl," while Oakland and their fans will forever remember it as the "Tuck Rule" game.

Down 13-10, Brady was driving his Patriots into Oakland territory as snow blanketed Foxboro Stadium. The quarterback took a snap with under two minutes left, and Woodson rushed him on a corner blitz. He laid a huge hit on Brady, forcing a fumble which was recovered up by the Raiders. The game was all but over, ending Brady's first season as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Or not. Officials reviewed the play and overturned the call, citing the little-known Tuck Rule:

When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.

New England Patriots  quarterback Tom Brady (C) ta
Patriots QB Tom Brady (C) takes a hit from Charles Woodson (R) of the Oakland Raiders on a pass attempt in the last two minutes of the game in their AFC playoff 19 January 2002 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/Matt CAMPBELL)

Referee Walt Colman reversed the call after several minutes and declared the play an incomplete pass. The Raiders were (and continue to be) livid about the call, and Adam Vinatieri used his magic foot to nail two snowy kicks as the Patriots won the game 16-13 in overtime.

It's a play that Brady and Woodson have not spoken about. Ever.

"I don't think we've ever talked about that, but I remember it very well, and I'm sure he does, too," the quarterback joked earlier this week. "He was making plays back then, and he's still making plays the same way. He's got long arms, a really strong tackler. He's been a ball hawk his entire career."

Woodson had some interesting things to say about the play back in January.

"Tom Brady owes me his house. I'm the reason why he's married to who he's married to. I'm a reason for a lot of that. Everything. Because they overturned that call," Woodson told The NFL Network. "Tom. C'mon now. Fess up. It was a fumble. It's still a fumble."

Woodson's comments were half-joking, but there's little doubt that game -- his first meeting against Brady in the NFL -- is always on the back of his mind.

Now the two meet for what is likely their final time on the football field. The matchups haven't carried the cache of a Brady-Peyton Manning showdown, but it has been incredible to watch their careers over the years.

Woodson came into the league a Heisman winner and was the fourth overall pick in 1997. Brady had to wait until the sixth round in 2000, and was making sure his resume was nice and neat when the Patriots finally called his name. Now they'll both go down as two of the best to ever play their positions.

The Patriots are heavily favored against the Raiders on Sunday, and Woodson has admitted to just how bad his team is this season. While the game likely won't come down to the Brady and Woodson matching wits, it's a nice story (yes, there are some in the NFL these days) of former college teammates squaring off as they both enter the final chapters into their Hall of Fame careers.


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