FOXBOROUGH -- With the Patriots' defensive backfield in better health this season than last, his two-way services were not often needed. But in last night's playoff opener against Jacksonville, there was Troy Brown, New England's veteran wide receiver, back in at cornerback.
Brown, who came to the aid of a wounded defense last season, did so again last night just minutes after he sparked the Patriots' slow-waking offense to its first touchdown, an 11-yard catch from Tom Brady with 12:08 remaining in the second quarter.
And there he was again in the fourth quarter, making a solo tackle by throwing his 196-pound body in the path of the Jaguars' 244-pound quarterback, David Garrard.
The appearance of Brown in the secondary was unexpected to most, but not to Brown.
''I knew early in the week that I might be in there on defense," said Brown. ''I was just out there to help the team make some plays and I have a lot of good guys on the field with me."
Brown's touchdown reception -- just the second postseason score of his career --came as frustration was beginning to grow on the sideline, he said, as a combination of Jacksonville's defense and some stumbling by the New England offense kept the Patriots off the scoreboard.
After a 4-yard Corey Dillon burst over right guard, Brady went without a huddle and sent Brown into the end zone. With the defense converging on other receivers, Brady found Brown open.
''They [the Jacksonville defenders] were bunching up inside, and the guys were closing in," said Brown. ''Tom kept his eyes on me and saw I was open and it was a TD."
Although the slow start wasn't much of a problem last night, as Jacksonville's offense struggled even more than New England's, Brown and the Patriots don't want to make that a habit.
''You always want a fast start," he said. ''You always want to go out and score a fast touchdown and keep going like that. So we have to improve things as we go on. We have to work on finding a way to start faster."
Although the final tally might indicate otherwise, Brown said Jacksonville was a handful.
''Well, we won the game tonight, but it was against a good football team," he said. ''They were big and played physical. They know how to grind it out and we just had to hang in there with them and try to stop them."
As for whether the Patriots head for Denver or Indianapolis next, Brown said it hardly matters.
''No matter who we play, it's the same," he said. ''We have to take on the team and become a better team than them. And it doesn't matter who it is because we have to beat them next week. We're not thinking about the Super Bowl now. We just have one team to play and that's what we have to do. Next week."