New England Patriots running back Corey Dillon was scratched from yesterday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a thigh injury, and Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law left in the first quarter with a foot injury.
New England clearly missed both players and lost its first game, 34-20, after winning an NFL-record 21 in a row.
Dillon, coming off consecutive 100-yard games, went into the day sixth in the NFL with 637 yards rushing and is averaging 106.1 yards a game. He had two 100-yard performances in 13 games against the Steelers, all with Cincinnati, but was held to 60 yards or fewer in each of his most recent four starts against them.
Law, one of the NFL's premier pass defenders, was injured slipping on the Heinz Field turf, which is showing bare spots not even halfway through the NFL season. Immediately after Law was lifted, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with Randall Gay, Law's replacement, in coverage.
The Patriots were without their other starting cornerback, Tyrone Poole, who sat out a second consecutive game with an injured knee.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick played down Dillon's injury on Friday, saying Dillon was "fine" and probable, meaning he had a 75 percent chance of playing. Dillon was downgraded to questionable later in the day.
Kevin Faulk, a sixth-year running back from LSU, replaced Dillon and finished with four yards on five carries. Faulk entered yesterday with 43 yards on 11 carries and a 3.9 average in three games this season.
-- From News Services