THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Outing hurt so good for Dillon

He's a bit banged up but happy to be 4-0

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / October 11, 2004

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FOXBOROUGH -- More than an hour had passed after the Patriots' 24-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins, and nearly all players and media had cleared out of the winner's locker room. A few writers and TV cameramen remained, hoping to get an update on the status of running back Corey Dillon, who exited the game early because of a banged-up ankle.

After getting treatment, Dillon emerged, but he directed all medical queries toward his coach, Bill Belichick. Dillon went to the sideline after his biggest play of the day -- a 36-yard run up the left side with 10:37 remaining in the third quarter, converting on third down and 2 from the Miami 40-yard line.

Rabih Abdullah finished off the six-play, 48-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave New England a 24-7 lead.

Dillon returned for just one play, with 10:01 left in the fourth, on which he was called for holding. He said his absence after that was a coaching decision.

"I don't think I'm inclined on speaking about the injury," said Dillon. "If you have any questions, you can talk to Bill but it's OK. It was a coaching call. Me being who I am, I've got to follow the rules, and that's where we basically left it. But I feel good and I'm going to go home and feel happy about this win and kick back and watch some more football."

Dillon said he felt well enough to keep competing but he was overruled.

"If that was the decision that was made and it was up to the coaching staff to put me back in, I would've did what they told me to do," he said.

The Patriots were well aware the Miami defense, despite the team being winless, wasn't going to give them much, and Dillon tried to make the most of his carries. He rushed for a game-high 94 yards on 18 carries, a 5.2-yard average. He said even though the Dolphins have nothing to show for their efforts this season, they're not to be disrespected.

"Don't overlook that team, that's a very good team," said Dillon, a three-time Pro Bowler who turns 30 on the 24th. "They've just had some mishaps and they easily could be 4-1 or whatever. But that's a solid defense over there. You've got to tip your hat to them because you know they're going to come and play you and play you well.

"Just the history of them playing the Patriots. It's always been a showdown. It's always been tight. That's what they expect. I don't care what the record is, New England against the Dolphins, they're going to come and play and play their best. They played very well today."

As strong as his performance was, he admitted it was disappointing not to be able to finish off the series with a touchdown.

"It's frustrating, but we got it down there," he said. "That's the point. You've got to give a little to take a little. Hey, I got it down there, big deal, somebody else gets it in, it's fine with me. My whole thing is I don't care about my stats. My stats don't mean nothing. As long as we win the football game, I can go home and sleep peacefully, and that's what I'm going to do. We won the football game, that's the bottom line."

As the clock ticked down, fans began waving signs that celebrated the NFL-record 19 consecutive victories, including the postseason, but Dillon, who wasn't a Patriot last year, said he was just thrilled to be 4-0.

"That's good, that's very good," said Dillon, who was acquired from the Bengals April 19 for an '04 second-round draft pick. "I haven't been 4-0 in a long time, since high school, so it's a good feeling. I'm just happy to be 4-0. The streak, that deals with guys who were here last year. I'm just an added piece to this big puzzle. I can tell you about being 4-0, and it's great."

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