Law suits Patriots just fine with three-INT game
Posted: Sunday January 18, 2004 11:12PM; Updated: Monday January 19, 2004 3:13AM
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- Ty Law has made big plays before. He's just never made so many in one game.
The Pro Bowl cornerback picked off three of Peyton Manning's passes in the AFC championship game Sunday to help New England beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-14 and advance to the Super Bowl. Strong safety Rodney Harrison also picked off the NFL co-MVP and forced a fumble.
"When you have five turnovers," Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light said, "everybody knows what the outcome's going to be."
The outcome for New England is a second trip in three years to the Super Bowl, where they'll face the Carolina Panthers. The last time, Law returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown to lead the Patriots to their first NFL title; his four career postseason interceptions are a franchise record.
Vernon Perry of the Houston Oilers had four interceptions in a 1979 AFC playoff game against San Diego, an NFL postseason record.
Law also spent much of the day blanketing star receiver Marvin Harrison, limiting him to only three catches for 19 yards. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the plan was to bump the receivers to knock them off their routes.
"The only thing that beats speed is power," Law said. "That's what we did."
Manning had two virtually perfect playoff games to reach the conference championship, and he hadn't thrown an interception in the postseason. All week, the Patriots kept hearing about how good he was.
"It was getting kind of tiring," Law said. "I knew I was going to be in for some action, and I was looking forward to it."
The Patriots scored on their first drive, then Indianapolis seemed poised to do the same thing before Rodney Harrison picked off Manning in the end zone with 3:26 left in the first quarter.
"It kept them from making the game real close at that point," Belichick said. "It saved us points, so it was a huge play."
The Patriots drove for a field goal that made it 10-0. Then Law picked off Manning on the Colts' next play from scrimmage, reaching out for the ball with his right hand and tipping it back to his body.
Law came through again late in the third quarter with a diving interception that helped protect a 21-7 lead. His third pick came midway through the fourth.
"He went out and proved he's the best corner in the league," said Rodney Harrison, who last went to the Super Bowl as a rookie special teams player with the Chargers in 1995.
"We were really ticked off because no one gave us credit," he said. "It was all about Peyton Manning. To go out and pick, pick, pick a guy that everybody was building up ... it was huge for us."
Law had six interceptions during the regular season, when he made his fourth Pro Bowl -- and third in a row. But the season didn't start off very well for him when good friend and fellow defensive back Lawyer Milloy was cut five days before the opener.
Law lashed out at Belichick, and the Patriots lost to Milloy's new team, the Buffalo Bills, 31-0. It wasn't just that his friend was gone: The move was seen as a signal to Law, who is due to cost the Patriots more than $9 million against the salary cap next year and could be headed for a similarly tough negotiation.
If so, he made a good case that he's worth it.
"There's probably going to have to be a decision made as far as my future," Law said. "The best thing I can do as far as negotiating is go out there and play football. Hopefully, I'll be here for the long haul. If I have to leave, I want to go out as a champion."