Dillon has a gang of admirers
RB is becoming attention-getter
FOXBOROUGH -- Five games into his New England career, the legend of Corey Dillon continues to grow. The onetime disgruntled running back for the Cincinnati Bengals is all smiles these days, his home in the Patriots' offense a most comfortable one.
He will celebrate his 30th birthday Sunday in a fashion that will be pleasing to him -- a key home game against the undefeated New York Jets -- but Dillon had a pile of guests at his locker yesterday, media members in search of a story.
Though rushing for 100 yards in a game is nothing new to Dillon -- he did it 28 times in his seven years with the Bengals -- it's probably safe to say that he never received this sort of attention for doing so, mostly because the Bengals were never a winning team and partly because he's providing Patriots followers the dynamic running threat that has been missing since Curtis Martin left for Long Island.
In other words, the Dillon-to-Patriots transaction has been the ultimate win-win situation thus far.
"You want to have balance," said New England coach Bill Belichick, one day after watching Dillon rush for 105 yards on 23 carries to highlight a 30-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks at Gillette Stadium. "I think in this league, defensively, if you want to shut down one guy, you could do it. I don't care who that guy is, you can take out one guy -- if you don't have to worry about anybody else. If you have to worry about everybody, then it's another story."
The past few seasons, Patriot defenders mostly had to be concerned about quarterback Tom Brady. But that has changed, thanks to No. 28. Instead of passing to set up the pass, the Patriots have been able to throw at the opposition a consistently balanced offense. Sunday, the Patriots ran the ball 33 times as opposed to 30 passes and only twice in five games have they thrown more times than they have run.
That makes Belichick smile, for even though he's coached two Super Bowl champions, he's never had the sort of running attack that he prefers. In Dillon, he does.
"He's got power, he's got quickness, he's got speed to outrun guys. He uses all those," said Belichick, who agreed when it was suggested that Dillon also has contributed in another manner that perhaps goes overlooked -- picking up the blitz.
"He's tough. I thought he stepped up three or four times and made solid contact on the blitz. He's a tough guy. It's one of the things I liked about him in Cincinnati."
Eye on Harrison
As the Patriots prepare for Sunday's game against the New York Jets, a battle between 5-0 AFC East teams at Gillette Stadium, safety Rodney Harrison is another who is continuing to attract a lot of national attention. He doesn't mind, but he takes exception to those who think that his play has been stepped up since coming to New England from the Chargers. "Because we've been on national TV, people are taking notice," he said. "But I'm playing the same way that I played in San Diego. I'm doing the same things I've always done." . . . Known as a conservative guy who prefers talking defense, not offense, Belichick was asked about the third-quarter razzle-dazzle play in which Brady handed off to Kevin Faulk, who pretended to go on a sweep before handing off to David Givens, who then handed off to David Patten. Three-handoff double-reverses aren't the type of plays one would associate with Belichick teams, but he said he had the utmost confidence in offensive coodinator Charlie Weis. "One of his strengths is play-calling, game-day adjustments and game-day calls," said Belichick. "I think he's very good at that." The first-down play went for just 5 yards and Belichick made it clear, in a joking way, that the play wasn't snuck in without his knowledge. "Believe it or not, we practiced that play. We worked on that play and planned on using it in the game. I've attended all the practices this year. I've watched the tapes of them. I don't sleep during those film sessions."
He went for it
Bethel Johnson was asked if he ever had a second thought about catching that acrobatic 48-yarder from Brady late in the game that set up the game-clinching touchdown. "If I had a second thought, I would have missed it," said Johnson, who dove and made a brilliant grab, stretched horizontally to the ground . . . On the sideline, linebacker Mike Vrabel saw the catch and marveled. "If we can get that every week, that would be huge," he said. "He is certainly a threat down the field." . . . As for the Weis's decision to call that play at a time when many would have liked to have seen the Patriots chew up the clock with running plays, Vrabel laughed. "Being a defensive guy and you have a lead, you sometimes think you're the offensive coordinator," said the linebacker. "So you're over there yelling which plays to run, `Stay aggressive. Run the ball. Run the clock.' You're just saying everything. But it was a great call and it was executed. I thought it was a great call, regardless whether he caught it or not . . . The first key turnover of the game came on Seattle's opening possession when defensive lineman Richard Seymour deflected a Matt Hasselbeck pass and linebacker Willie McGinest picked it up. McGinest, now 33, had open field and returned it 27 yards, though he was caught from behind when it appeared he might go all the way. "He said he had a lot of speed, but I don't know," said Seymour, laughing. "It was a big play, a momentum-changing play for us. I just hope it wasn't an offensive lineman [who caught him]. I hope it was a running back who got him. If it was, I'll let it slide a little bit." Let it slide, Richard, because fullback Mack Strong made the touchdown-saving tackle . . . When Hasselbeck hit Jerramy Stevens in the end zone following the team's only touchdown, it marked the first 2-point conversion for the Seahawks since 2002 . . . Belichick wasn't among those who stayed up to watch the Red Sox' 12-inning victory over the Yankees Sunday night. "I couldn't stay up that late," he said. "It was a long day for me." Still, he confirmed that he was rooting for the Red Sox, though in typical coaching fashion, he said, "I don't think that that will have any effect on the series."