St. Louis, Mo. - The return of running back Corey Dillon from a one week absence coincided with the return of a balanced offensive attack for the New England Patriots in Sunday's 40-22 win over the St. Louis Rams.
Dillon sparked the Patriots running game Sunday, rushing 25 times for a game-high 112 yards and a touchdown. It was his third consecutive 100-yard effort in games in which he's played and his fourth overall this season. Dillon, who was questionable during the week leading up to the game with a thigh injury and missed portion of team practices, did not play in last week's 34-20 loss to Pittsburgh.
"Corey [Dillon] did a great job today," head coach Bill Belichick said. "He ran well, he had a couple of big runs. We were able to convert some plays in the third and fourth quarter and were able to fun the ball and control the game a little bit."
The Patriots rushed 32 times for 147 yards against the Rams and had 33 passing plays. It was in stark contrast to last week, when the Patriots rushed just six times for five yards - their fewest single-game attempts and second-lowest yardage total in franchise history - and attempted 47 passes. Sunday, the Patriots had 27 attempts and a solid 5.1-yard per carry average.
"They did a great job up front," Dillon said. "They gave me some opportunities, and just pushed. They held their blocks and I got upfield with the ball."
The Patriots have now one 12 consecutive games when they posted a 100-yard rusher. Dillon, who notched his 32nd career 100-yard game, has rushed for 749 yards this season on 154 carries through eight games, eclipsing Antowain Smith's team-leading 642 yards of last season. Dillon is on pace for 1,605 yards rushing this season, which would break Curtis Martin's team mark of 1,487 set in 1995.
"We're just doing what it takes to win football games," Dillon said about his rhythm with the offensive line. "I don't know if we're getting in a groove or whatever, I don't know. I just know we just go out there and play hard. We play hard together, and make things happen as a unit. You have to tip your hat to these guys. We just go out and fight. We scrap. We take pride in everything we do."
Fake Of The Day
Leading 19-14 in the third quarter and facing a fourth-and-goal play from the 3-yard line, the Patriots reached into their bag of tricks. Lined up in field goal formation, kicker Adam Vinatieri took a quick snap and tossed an easy touchdown pass to wide receiver Troy Brown, who was uncovered and all alone on the left side. Not only was it Vinatieri's first career touchdown pass, it was the first completed pass by any player other than quarterback Tom Brady since Rohan Davey in the 2003 season opener. The last time a Patriot other than Brady completed a touchdown pass was on Oct. 21, 2001, when David Patten completed a 60-yard scoring strike to Brown against Indianapolis.
"It's just the play we thought might have a chance," Belichick said. "Troy [Brown] and Adam [Vinatieri] executed it well. It's hard down there on the goal line to see [how] everybody is deployed."
Score Like Mike
Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel made the most of his role as a tight end Sunday, scoring his second career regular-season touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Brady during the second quarter. Vrabel, who often lines up as a tight end in short yardage situations, lined up on the left side of the formation as the Patriots faced a second-and-one. He beat Rams' defensive lineman Bryce Fisher to the left corner of the end zone, hauling in a touch pass from Brady with out-stretched arms.
"We run those plays in practice and he always comes back and tells us he's open," Belichick said. "He had to get his feet down and make a nice catch there on the sideline. Tom [Brady] made a great throw and that was a big-time catch."
Ashworth Latest To Land On IRThe Patriots placed starting right tackle Tom Ashworth on the injured reserve late Saturday and signed cornerbackEarthwind Moreland from the practice squad to the active roster. Ashworth, who missed the early portions of training camp with a back injury, started the first six games this season before sitting out last week's game against Pittsburgh. Third-year tackle Brandon Gorin, who made his first career start last week, started for the second consecutive week in place of Ashworth.
Moreland, 27, was added to provide depth to the depleted Patriots secondary. Originally signed early in training camp, he played in all four of the team's preseason games before being released on Sept. 3 and resigned three weeks later. Moreland, in his third NFL season out of Georgia Southern University, finished with four tackles.
"Just being able to come in and contribute any way you can is good," Moreland said. "This is a good group of veterans; as long as you're paying attention to what they want you to do, you'll be fine out there."
Nearly An Brown Pick
Brown saw substantial action as the Patriots nickel back against the Rams, and as a result filled the stat sheet. Brown, who finished with three receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown on offense, also recorded three tackles and a pass defended on defense. Brown nearly recorded his first career interception during the third quarter when he deflected a pass intended for Shaun McDonald over the middle. He was later called for a defensive pass interference penalty on a pass intended for Kevin Curtis when the pass from Marc Bulger hit him in the back.
"Real bad," Brown said when asked if he wanted the interception. "It was unfortunate. I guess the ball got tipped a little bit or something. It hit me right in the face. I almost had two if I would have turned around on [the other one]."
Bad Time For TurnoversTurnovers continue to be a problem for quarterback Brady, who's second quarter fumble in the end zone led to a St. Louis touchdown and the Rams first lead of the game. On first-and-10 from their own 6-yard line, St. Louis defensive tackle Damione Lewis beat guard Joe Andruzzi and stripped Brady from behind as he stepped up to throw. Lewis recovered the ball, giving the Rams a 7-6 lead.
Game Day InactivesThe Patriots listed eight players as inactive: Cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole; running backs Rabih Abdullah and Cedric Cobbs; wide receiver Deion Branch; and defensive lineman Marquise Hill and Ethan Kelley. Jim Miller served as the third quarterback.
Sunday's attendance was 66,107. ... Sunday's game was the first ever meeting between Patriots running back Kevin Faulk and his younger cousin, Rams' linebacker Trev Faulk. Kevin finished with two receptions for 17 yards and one rush for 9 yards, while Trev totaled six tackles. ... The Patriots improved to 7-2 in dome games with the win. ... The Patriots scored first for the 16th consecutive game when Vinatieri hit a 42-yard field goal on the Patriots opening drive. Vinatieri was perfect on the day, hitting four field goals (42, 31, 45, 36) and three extra points. ... Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain saw substantial action as a rush end in the Patriots dime packages. ... Brady completed 18-of-31 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. It was his 14th consecutive game, including the playoffs, with a touchdown pass. ... Brady's 50-yard completion to David Givens during the second quarter is the Patriots longest play from scrimmage this season. ... Givens led the Patriots with five receptions for 100 yards. It was his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, equaling the total number 100-yard games the Patriots had all of last season. ... Rodney Harrison led the Patriots with seven total tackles. ... Roman Phifer recorded his first interception of the season during the third quarter when he picked off Bulger and returned it 26 yards. ... The Patriots recorded five sacks from five different players. Willie McGinest had one sack against St. Louis and has a team-high 4.0 this season.