FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – With the New England Patriots down to one healthy running back, Corey Dillon’s injured ankle might not get much rest.

The Patriots hadn’t planned to use Dillon a lot against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, but fullback Patrick Pass hurt his leg early in the second quarter and Dillon ended up shouldering the workload.

He carried 18 times for 72 yards and scored on a pair of 1-yard runs in the fourth quarter of a 21-16 comeback victory.

“In situations like that, you’re really unsure about how you’re going to perform, but once I got out there (I was OK),” said Dillon, who didn’t play in Denver on Oct. 16. “Believe me, I’ve been doing this since I was 6 years old. It’s nothing. This is what I do. This is what I get paid to do.”

Neither Dillon nor Pass practiced on Wednesday, leaving fullback Heath Evans as the lone back on the field. Evans was just signed a day earlier to replace Amos Zereoue, who was released.

Third-down back Kevin Faulk has been out since hurting his foot Week 3 in Pittsburgh.

Dillon said he hoped to play next week, when the Patriots (4-3) host the Indianapolis Colts (7-0) on Monday night.

“I’m going to do what I can,” he said. “That’s where I sit right now. I’m going to try to get as healthy as I can and see what happens Monday night.”

The Patriots’ running game is ranked 28th in the NFL. Dillon has rushed for only 401 yards, leaving him well off his pace of a year ago, when he ran for a franchise-record 1,635 yards.

“Last year is last year,” the 31-year-old Dillon said. “I can’t bring back last year.”

Although the Colts rank only 14th against the run, they haven’t allowed a 100-yard rushing game by an opposing player this season and have given up only two rushing touchdowns.

“They’ve put it together,” Dillon said. “They’re on a roll. They’re tough to stop. We just have to play a perfect game and see what happens.”

In last year’s 20-3 divisional playoff loss to the Patriots, the Colts’ run defense wore down in the second half. New England ran for 210 yards, with Dillon rushing for 144 of those.

While Dillon hasn’t recaptured his 2004 form yet, he has improved lately, averaging more than 4.0 yards per carry in each of his last three games. He was below 3.0 yards per carry for the first three weeks of the season.

Dillon also has run for seven touchdowns, including the pair of 1-yarders against the Bills. Those scores, which came less than two minutes apart, helped the Patriots rally from a 16-7 deficit.

“That was huge for us,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “I’m glad we got him going. I’m glad there were some holes there for him. He was a great spark for our offense.”

AP-ES-11-02-05 1459EST


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