Dillon's stats add up to win
PITTSBURGH -- If somebody told the Pittsburgh Steelers they'd hold Corey Dillon to 73 yards on 24 carries in the AFC Championship game, chances are Bill Cowher's team would be convinced they were going to the Super Bowl.
But stopping Dillon didn't provide any such guarantee for the Black & Gold.
Dillon was held in check, but he did manage to escape for a 25-yard touchdown run in the Patriots' 41-27 win last night.
Dillon wasn't the huge factor everyone predicted, but neither was the Steelers' Jerome Bettis, who had 64 yards on 17 carries. "Everybody just went out and did their job," Dillon said. "That's all we were asking from everyone during the week and that's how we felt that we would win this football game. I'm just going to enjoy this for now and get ready for the Super Bowl."Dillon has never played this deep into the season before. So far, he's 2-0 in the postseason.
"This is what I signed up for. This is what I thought might happen when I got traded to the Patriots," said Dillon, acquired in the offseason from the Bengals. "At least this is what I was hoping for. It seemed to all mesh together as the season went on and to win this game against a great team like Pittsburgh."
Dillon said his team has been focused all year and feels this trek to the Super Bowl will be no different.
"This is what we've played for all year and now that the time has come, I think this team has been there and we're going to know how to handle it," he said. "It's going to be new for me, but I'll take my lead from these guys. They've been there and won it, and now they're going to do it again, but I'll tell you for these guys it feels like the first time and that's what's so special about this team."
Bill Belichick said at his news conference Friday that Richard Seymour would not start but could play in situations.
It was unlike the Patriots coach to give such detailed injury information. Some believed it was to throw off the Steelers in their game preparations. Sure enough, Seymour, New England's best defensive lineman, was among the team's eight inactive players.
Seymour injured his knee in the third quarter of a 23-7 win over the Jets Dec. 26 and has not played since.
Seymour was replaced in the starting lineup by Jarvis Green.
Also inactive for the Patriots were wide receiver Kevin Kasper, cornerback Earthwind Moreland, running back Cedric Cobbs, defensive back Antwan Harris, tight end Jed Weaver, defensive end Marquise Hill, and third quarterback Jim Miller.
The Steelers' big loss was linebacker Kendrell Bell, who was listed as probable with a sore groin. Also out were cornerback Chidi Iwuoma, running back Willie Parker, offensive tackle Barrett Brooks, guard Jim Jones, tight end Matt Kranchick, linebacker Alonzo Jackson, and third quarterback Brian St. Pierre.
Finding the range
Adam Vinatieri said his range in pregame last night was about 48 yards, and that's precisely the distance he made in the first quarter to get the Patriots off to the lead. "I think I had about a yard or two to spare on it, so it was a good distance, the right distance for me at that point," said Vinatieri, who is now 5 for 6 at Heinz after also making a 31-yarder . . . Ted Johnson was marveling at how he's about to go to his fourth Super Bowl in nine years. "A lot of us who were here for the first one were remarking on that after the game. It's amazing. I never could have imagined this would happen. Some players don't get to one and some of us here have been to four. That's a dream come true and believe me we all cherish it.". . . Ty Law watched the game from a private box and then got around the locker room on a motorized scooter. He said he will be with the team at the Super Bowl in Jacksonville . . . Also on the Patriots sideline was Al Groh, the former Jets head coach and Patriots defensive coordinator, now the head coach at Virginia . . . Reserve guard Russ Hochstein was used on short-yardage running plays as an extra tight end . . . Troy Brown also saw a lot of action in nickel packages along with Hank Poteat . . . On a day local TV stations were preempting network coverage for updates on the Blizzard of 2005, it was natural to ask: "What would have happened if the AFC Championship game had been scheduled for Gillette Stadium last night?" Gary Tanguay, the host of the Patriots' pre- and postgame shows on WBCN asked team vice chairman Jonathan Kraft about the hypothetical situation. "First, we wish we would have been having the game there," said Kraft. "But it would have been an awkward situation . . . My guess is the league would have needed the game to go on for the TV commitment, but that's just me speculating."
Bill Griffith of the Globe staff contributed to this report.