IN A GAME ONLY A MUDDER COULD LOVE, LEAVE IT to Corey Dillon to be the workhorse the Patriots needed on a down-and-dirty afternoon in rainy New England. It was this kind of day New England had in mind when it traded for Dillon--so that when the gales of Gillette Stadium come calling and the field in Foxborough is turned to muck, the Patriots could collectively crawl on Dillon's sturdy back and ride him home to victory. A shelter from the storm, in the disguise of a lead running back.
"Oh, yeah, you want him on your side at this time of year," Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi said of Dillon. "This is New England weather. We have to be able to play in this."
And win. That's where Dillon comes in. The 24--3 conquest of Baltimore on Nov. 28 was a wet one from start to finish, but it was a win nonetheless, largely because of Dillon's ability to dominate. In the end New England's formula for victory was as easy as 1-2-3, as in Dillon's 123-yard, 30-carry game, which included the game's only offensive touchdown on a one-yard, fourth-quarter dive.
For the Patriots this season Dillon has been the primary barometer of success. With him in the lineup they haven't lost (10--0). Without him they haven't won (0--1).
For a guy who couldn't stand year after year of double-digit loss totals in Cincinnati, Dillon is undefeated in a Patriots uniform. And praise be, his personal winning streak has now reached double digits. (He missed New England's loss at Pittsburgh due to a thigh injury.)
"You can't beat that," said Dillon. "I've never in my career been 10--1. I really don't care about how many yards I've got, or how many touchdowns. I didn't come here to get no stats. I came here to win."
Dillon obviously came to the right place because the Patriots have now won 25 of their past 26 games. So many of those, it seems, have been played in rain, sleet or snow, and it can't be good news for the rest of the NFL that it's beginning to look a lot like Patriots weather in New England. Now that this team has a Dillon-led running game to go with its Tom Brady--paced passing game, is there any doubt that the road to the Super Bowl still winds through Foxborough?
-- Don Banks
--Reprinted from SI.COM, Nov. 28, 2004