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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

A New York state of mind?

DENVER -- Eric Mangini could become a millionaire by his 35th birthday, and last night's divisional playoff game at Denver could have been his last with the Patriots.

The Patriots' defensive coordinator will meet with the Jets today in Foxborough to discuss New York's vacant head coaching position.

Various reports have said Mangini will accept the job if offered.

Mangini, who celebrates his 35th birthday Thursday, has worked as a defensive assistant under Patriots coach Bill Belichick for the past nine years. He has been a coordinator for just one year, taking over for Romeo Crennel after he left to become the head coach for the Cleveland Browns.

One of Mangini's strengths is organization and he is a stickler for detail, often grilling his players about positions they do not play so they understand the entire defense.

''Everybody has a chance to get it right," Mangini said before the season began. ''Either you don't know or you don't care -- both of them are problems. We're here whenever somebody needs us and we can spend as much time as possible to get it right. Fortunately we have guys who work hard to get it right."

Belichick did not comment last week on Mangini's candidacy, referring all questions to the Jets. But he thinks Mangini will make a good head coach.

''He's done a great job for me," Belichick said. ''He's been an outstanding coach. I've been with him in three different organizations and I have all the respect in the world for Eric."

Mangini got his start as an assistant under Belichick in Cleveland. Mangini's duties were mostly of the non-coaching variety, including laundry duty.

When Belichick was fired by the Browns, Mangini stayed with the organization, which moved to Baltimore, spending a year as an offensive assistant with the Ravens.

Mangini rejoined Belichick, then the defensive coordinator for the Jets, in 1997, and has been at his side since. They came to New England in 2000, with Mangini coaching the defensive backs.

Mangini was a head coach once, leading the Kew Colts, a semipro team in Melbourne, to a 22-3-1 record in 1992-93.

Kaczur on shelf

Left tackle Nick Kaczur (shoulder) headed the list of inactives last night, leaving the Patriots without a key member of the offensive front.

The Patriots have three tackles on the roster, with Kaczur having started 12 games in his rookie season after taking over for the injured Matt Light. Kaczur missed December games at Buffalo and a home contest against Tampa Bay with a shoulder injury, but he returned and started the past three weeks.

Tom Ashworth started in his place earlier in the season, with Brandon Gorin on the right side. The Patriots used that same formation last night.

Linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who missed the last two games, including last week's wild-card win over Jacksonville, rehabbing a strained calf, was back in the starting lineup.

Running back Patrick Pass, continuing to struggle with a hamstring injury he suffered Nov. 7, did not make the trip. Pass had six receptions for 89 yards and 10 carries for 64 yards against Denver in the regular season.

Receiver Bethel Johnson, rookie wideout Bam Childress, defensive linemen Dan Klecko and Santonio Thomas, and offensive lineman Gene Mruckowski were also inactive.

Officially speaking

Belichick was upset with two calls that set up easy Denver touchdowns.

He thought Asante Samuel did not interfere with Ashley Lelie on a pass play that resulted in a 39-yard interference penalty, putting the Broncos on the 1-yard line to set up their first score.

Belichick also thought officials might have overturned a ruling after Champ Bailey's 100-yard interception return came to an abrupt end with a hit by Benjamin Watson near the goal line. But Denver maintained possession at the 1, instead of the play being ruled a touchback.

Hard to take

Outside linebacker Willie McGinest was animated on the sideline after the Broncos' Mike Anderson scored on a 1-yard run with 43 seconds left in the third quarter. He appeared to be exchanging words with Mangini.

McGinest's emotions looked to be a result of the Patriots' losing containment on Anderson's run. Linebacker Larry Izzo, playing in the Patriots' goal-line package, looked be the player who lost containment.

McGinest also had words for Izzo before Izzo walked away because the kickoff coverage team was taking the field.

Family guy

Tight end Daniel Graham, a Denver native, said he took care of just his immediate family with game tickets. At the top of the list was his twin brother, Josh, and his father Tom, who once played for the Broncos . . . David Givens extended his streak to seven straight playoff games with a touchdown reception with a 4-yard catch in the 8:05 left . . . The Broncos' defense led the AFC against the run and was fourth in the league in opponents' percentage of third downs that were 10 or more yards (35.7 percent) . . . The Patriots entered the game 8-16 in Denver, including a loss in the only playoff matchup, which was in 1987 . . . The home game for the Broncos was their first in the postseason since 1999, and the first at Invesco Field, which opened for the 2001 season.

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