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Dillon fights through pain

In 2d half, he bounces back

FOXBOROUGH -- Because Corey Dillon means so much to the Patriots offense, any sign of injury is cause for concern. Such a moment came with 8:06 remaining in the first half last night when Dillon, after an 8-yard run, came up limping and went to the sideline, where he stayed for the rest of the half.

Suddenly that anxiety turned into a sigh of relief when Dillon returned with a vengeance in the second half and wound up rushing for 151 yards on 26 carries in New England's 29-6 win over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.

Dillon was on the sideline, favoring his left knee as the medical staff worked on him.

The Patriots running back, who now has 900 yards and is averaging 5 yards per carry, has had problems with foot and thigh injuries this season, missing the Pittsburgh game, New England's only loss. Last night the Patriots used Kevin Faulk and Patrick Pass, and scored two touchdowns, with Dillon on the sideline.

"I just wanted to play," said Dillon, who at first asked reporters to "talk to Bill [Belichick]" about the injury. "I just wanted to go out there and run and help us win and do what I can do. I'm just having fun. It's been a long time since I've felt like this. We're doing things as a team, winning as a team."

While a reporter suggested he had an easy time penetrating the Bills defense, which hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher, Dillon bristled.

"That's a great defense over there. They play hard. When you gain 100 yards against them, you've earned it," said Dillon.

Corner switch
So why did Earthwind Moreland start and Asante Samuel sit out last night? Samuel wasn't on the injury report and Belichick said the second-year cornerback could have played. After the game, Samuel had an ice pack on his right shoulder, which he injured in last week's win in St. Louis . . . Deion Branch practiced at the end of the week, but his knee didn't respond well enough to suit up last night. Branch had been upgraded from doubtful to questionable during the week, but he missed his seventh straight game. Both starting corners, Ty Law (foot) and Tyrone Poole (knee), were out. Also out was special teams linebacker Matt Chatham, who is nursing a hamstring injury. Running back Cedric Cobbs, defensive end Marquise Hill, and nose tackle Ethan Kelley were the inactives . . . Safety Rodney Harrison couldn't believe he incurred a roughing-the-passer call against Drew Bledsoe in the second half. Harrison cut Bledsoe's legs from underneath him on a 2-point conversion attempt. "If you hit him high you get a penalty. If you hit him low you get a penalty," said Harrison. "Can't even touch the quarterback now?"

Relief role
Rohan Davey got some fourth-quarter garbage time. He remains No. 2 on the Patriots depth chart behind Tom Brady. Belichick was asked during the week about Davey's status since veteran Jim Miller appears completely recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. "Nothing has changed there," the coach said. "It has been consistent and I would expect it to stay that way barring some unforeseen circumstances. I would never rule it out, but basically I see it staying in that direction." . . . . . Troy Brown sought out Bledsoe before the game to say hello. Brown later sought out a Bledsoe pass, the former Patriot quarterback's third interception of the game. Brown said earlier this week, of his fellow 1993 Patriots draft pick, "He'll always be my boy. I love the guy. We go way back. Our familes are close and I'll always admire him for what he did here and what he's been through."

Great blitz pickup
So, you woke up Saturday morning, took a look out the window, and felt like crawling back to bed when you discovered that winter had arrived all too quickly.

Well, imagine how Jim Nolan felt.

You've got a driveway big enough for two cars to worry about? He's got to worry about a series of parking lots that hold 16,500 vehicles. You've got a walkway and a few steps? He's got to concern himself with a massive stadium complete with 68,756 seats, three concourses, and a field that is expected to be an immaculate stage on which to play an NFL game.

Call it their version of the two-minute drill, but the folks who take care of Gillette Stadium faced crunch time when 6 inches of snow fell early Saturday morning. OK, it wasn't the 30-inch storm at last season's memorable Miami game, but it wasn't exactly a day at the beach, either, which is why Nolan was thrilled to hear more than a few people say it hardly looked like any snow had fallen down here.

"That's our goal," said Nolan, the vice president of operations at Gillette Stadium. "The entire operation, all the folks, did a spectacular job."

Nolan said there is a snow-removal plan and it didn't take long to put it into place when a blanket of snow enveloped the area. With more than 200 workers handed shovels, they were split into two crews. "One crew concentrated on getting the snow out of the seats and out of the aisles," said Nolan, "while the other crew concentrated on the entire building, the entrance areas and sidewalks."

In all, 12 Bobcats were used to transfer the snow away from the playing field to various areas outside the stadium. The parking lots were cleared so well thousands of tail-gaters had to wonder if it had snowed at all. "We started working at noon [Saturday] and we worked around-the-clock," said Nolan. 

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