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100 a mark of their excellence

Givens, Dillon measuring up

ST. LOUIS -- David Givens and Corey Dillon are growing used to the number 100.

For the third straight week, Givens produced a 100-yard receiving day, and for the fourth time this season Dillon rushed for more than 100 yards, piling up 112 on a day when it was unclear whether he would play until an hour before kickoff.

Dillon has rushed for more yards in half a season (749) than Antowain Smith garnered all last year and never were they more important than late in yesterday's 40-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams when New England used Dillon to ice the victory.

In the game's final quarter, Dillon had nearly a third of his 25 carries (eight) for nearly a third of his yards (37) as he pounded down what remained of the Rams' delusion that it would somehow find a way to turn New England's one-game losing streak into a trend.

"By no means did I think I could come in here and blaze it up all day," Dillon said. "I'm just here to do my part and help the team win. Everybody stepped up after last week [when they were crushed by the Pittsburgh Steelers].

"Today was a total team effort. Some people were doing things they were unaccustomed to doing. They came through in the clutch. That's the mark of a good team and a true team. Everybody went out there and played their butts off."

Givens was one of those people. Early in the week, he was seething after he learned he had been placed on the injury report for a knee that had been sore and troublesome for weeks but was starting to heal. His response was to grab five Tom Brady passes for 100 yards, including one 50-yard bomb on which he had to have perfect concentration because Jerametrius Butler was hanging all over him.

Givens paid as little attention to Butler as Dillon has been paying to his sore leg and as his teammates have been paying to an assortment of injuries. At times yesterday, the Patriots secondary featured a wide receiver, a linebacker, a practice squad refugee, or a rookie free agent.

Through it all, Dillon and Givens remained bright lights, with the former on pace to rush for roughly 1,500 yards, which would more than double Smith's production of a year ago. Dillon, however, seemed to have little concern about his numbers and none about his health.

"Does it matter?" Dillon said. "I played. That's all that matters. I mean all the little stuff and details, you have to take that up with Bill [Belichick]. I'm fine or I wouldn't be playing."

Certainly one thing is sure. He's playing fine. And so is Givens.

Happy sack
On the final play of the first quarter, seldom-seen Jarvis Green made a strong play on third and 13 when the Rams tried to take advantage of Asante Samuel's absence by putting five wide receivers on the field. This left Troy Brown, Earthwind Moreland, and Dexter Reid along with Eugene Wilson and Rodney Harrison in coverage but New England sacked Marc Bulger despite rushing only three men, caving in the pocket immediately with Green making the tackle . . . Belichick must have been wondering what they were thinking at the Edward Jones Dome when the Patriots' head coach was introduced as "Brian Belichick" before the game . . . On several occasions linebacker Don Davis found himself at safety, a position he quietly had begun to play in practice the last few weeks. "It's a two-part thing here," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said of Davis's ability to step in at a position foreign to him. "The coaches prepare you for those kind of moves and then the players accept it and perform. They gave Don Davis some safety background and he was willing to do it. He didn't say `I'm not a safety.' He was willing to be in the safety meetings." . . . Adam Vinatieri has become the bane of the Rams' existence. He is now 11 for 11 in field goal attempts against them and also threw the first touchdown pass of his career against them yesterday, personally accounting for 22 of New England's 40 points. Vinatieri has never missed (34 for 34) in domed stadiums with artificial turf. The only indoor stadium in which he has missed is Reliant Stadium in Houston, which has natural turf. He is 4 for 8 there . . . New England has scored first in 16 straight games, including three playoff wins. But the Patriots don't just start fast. They also end fast. When Vinatieri kicked his fourth field goal just before halftime it was the third straight game in which New England has scored on the final possession of the half. It was the seventh time in the last nine games that it scored on its last possession before halftime . . . New England has not lost a game in a dome since Thanksgiving 2000, when the Detroit Lions beat them, 34-9. 

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