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2008 loss weighs on Patriots fans at send-off

Tens of thousands of fans turned out for a Patriots rally at Gillette Stadium yesterday as the team departed for Indianapolis for Sunday’s Super Bowl duel with the Giants.

BILL GREENE/GLOBE STAFF

Tens of thousands of fans turned out for a Patriots rally at Gillette Stadium yesterday as the team departed for Indianapolis for Sunday’s Super Bowl duel with the Giants.

FOXBOROUGH - New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a message for the thousands of fans who shouted and cheered for the team during its Super Bowl send-off rally yesterday at Gillette Stadium.

“You’re the greatest fans in America,’’ he told the revved-up crowd that began packing the lower-level seats when the stadium opened about two hours before the noon rally.

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Brady, who will be making his fifth Super Bowl appearance next Sunday when the Pats take on the New York Giants in Indianapolis, stopped short of predicting a victory, but vowed the team will be going full speed on game day.

“We’re going to give it our best,’’ he said. “Hopefully we have a lot more people at our party next weekend.’’

Many of the fans in attendance touched on a theme that Brady and other players who spoke during the rally left unsaid: revenge.

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“Oh, God, we can taste it,’’ said Doreen DuPont, 50, of Leicester. “We need to get that monkey off our back.’’

She was referring to the team’s devastating Super Bowl loss to the Giants in February 2008, quashing what had been a perfect season and sending the Patriot faithful into a winter-long depression.

Wearing team jackets and holding a sign urging the squad to avenge that loss - it said “Yeah Baby!! Super Bowl Bound!! Bring It Home Boys!!’’ - DuPont and her friend Beth Cardinal, 42, of Auburn, were ready to cheer on the team.

Cardinal, who predicted the Pats will prevail by a 34-to-20 margin in the rematch, said her team loyalty runs deep.

“I’ve been a fan since the ’80s, when it was $10 to get into the old place,’’ Cardinal said, referring to the old Foxborough Stadium.

Younger fans shared her passion.

Paulmichael Bertocchi, 18, of Reading, wearing a Chad Ochocinco jersey, said the last Super Bowl loss to the Giants was hard to stomach.

“I have to admit it, I cried,’’ Bertocchi said.

How will he react if the Pats win next week?

“I don’t even know,’’ he said. “I’m just going to go crazy. Bang the pots and pans like the good old days and stuff.’’

Pete Sutera, 30, of Gloucester, also recalled the brutal feeling when the Pats fell to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

“It was like getting punched in the stomach,’’ he said.

Sutera wore a Rob Gronkowski jersey and said he hoped the standout tight end would fully recover before Sunday’s kickoff from the ankle injury that he suffered during the last game.

Sutera predicted a 24-to-17 victory for the Pats, and like other fans yesterday, said his confidence in the defense has grown during the season.

Brian Foley, 50, of Bridgewater, a 17-year season ticket holder, joked about watching games “in that beautiful, old stadium,’’ referring to Foxborough Stadium, where most fans had to cram onto aluminum benches. It was torn down in 2002.

He said he is ready for another Super Bowl victory, but it will not come easily.

“Seven years without a championship, that has to stop,’’ Foley said, calling a 31-to-27 win for the Pats. “It’s going to be another nail-biter.’’

Team owner Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan paid tribute at the rally to a group of 10 police officers, firefighters, teachers, military personnel, and nurses the team is sending to the Super Bowl, as a token of appreciation for service to their communities.

Robert Kraft told the crowd that his late wife, Myra, who died of cancer in July and was celebrated for her expansive spirit and charitable works, has been watching this season’s games, along with all the fans who died before the season began.

“They’ve all been smiling down on us over this past year,’’ Kraft said. “But especially this last game in this stadium, I saw one smiling face along with your dear ones, making sure that things worked out the way we wanted at the end of the game.’’

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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