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October 9, 2006

Trusty Troy comes through again

FOXBORO - Near the end of the first quarter, New England Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown hauled in the pass on third and 7 and was tackled when this writer asked my neighbor in the press box if it was a first down.

"It's Troy Brown," said the voice next to me.

Dumb question. Of course it was a first down. Brown got eight yards, extending a drive that would eventually lead to a second field goal in a 6-0 lead.

On the Patriots first field goal, the key play of the drive was an 11-yard pass to Brown, also on third down, getting the ball to the Dolphins' 18.

The Patriots first touchdown, putting them ahead 13-0, Brady threw a low 10-yard strike to a falling Brown in the end zone. It was a play we've seen so many times over the last 14 years.

"I just slipped the guy inside and Tom saw me in there and he just threw it down low where you need to throw it in the end zone," said Brown. "I made a play on the ball down there."

It sounded so simple. And if he had been the receiver of choice over the last three or four seasons, it might not be as newsworthy. But the 35-year-old former special teams star and defensive back has been in hiding on the offensive side of the ball for a few seasons now.

And let's be honest. If Brown, now in his 14th season, all with the Patriots, isn't playing wide receiver yesterday, the Patriots lose an embarrassing game to an embarrassing team. Instead, the Patriots win 20-10 and go into their bye week at 4-1 in the AFC East.

The Patriots, a week removed from one of their great regular-season wins under Bill Belichick in Cincinnati last week, looked more like the semi-confused offensive unit they'd been the first three weeks, without the go-to wide receiver.

Enter Brown, who most people wrote off to retirement this offseason. In fact, most people in the know wrote him off two and even three seasons ago when wide receiving position was a strength rather than the weakness it is now here in Foxboro.

Brown is slightly offended by that analysis of his receiving corps. Or at least he says, it's not the whole story.

"We have come a long way from Day 1," said Brown, who led all Patriots receivers in catches (5) and yards (58). "Doug (Gabriel) has been here five weeks. Reche (Caldwell) has been here just the offseason. It takes time. I think we are getting better. You've got to be realistic, man, and give us some time."

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