Harrison speaks loudly once again

Freddie Mitchell should know Rodney Harrison's number after the Patriots safety's banner day.

Updated: February 7, 2005, 2:59 AM ET
By James C. Black | ESPN.com

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Patriots strong safety Rodney Harrison likens himself to running back Corey Dillon. The sentiments are mutual.

"Me and Rodney Harrison are the same person. The only difference is he plays defense and I play offense," said Dillon, labeled as a problem child before joining New England. "If it wasn't for that guy, I wouldn't even be here. He didn't have to go to management and stick his neck out for me the way that he did."

Rodney Harrison
GettyRodney Harrison, left, had plenty to celebrate with teammate Mike Vrabel (50) after his second interception of the game.
By now, Dillon and practically anyone who's watched the Patriots play over the last two seasons should know that about Harrison: He lives for putting himself on the line.

Harrison, known for his big hits and overall rough play that have led to fines before and since joining the Pats, shook off an early injury and was once again a standout among the defensive playmakers for New England during Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.

"Luckily, it wasn't anything too serious, but even if he was seriously injured, he would be out there," said Patriots cornerback Randall Gay. "Actually, he had an ankle injury that bothered him last week, but he would never let anyone know."

This time around, a hip injury threatened to affect the performance of New England's defensive leader. With the Eagles driving and trying to break a scoreless tie in the first quarter, Harrison dove for a Donovan McNabb pass and made the interception at New England's 3-yard line.

"Turnovers really change the complexion of the game and anytime you get one, it's huge for the team," said Harrison, who finished the game with seven tackles.

However, the veteran safety banged his hip against the ground and needed assistance from the trainers. Yet when the Eagles got the ball back less than two minutes later, Harrison was back on the field and making plays. He sacked McNabb for a one-yard loss on second down. On the next play, the Patriots forced a fumble, the second of four Philadelphia turnovers.

You make them go out there and know your name. I bet you [Eagles receiver Freddie Mitchell] knows our numbers now.
Rodney Harrison

And even as moments of anxiousness set in with the game on the line, Harrison saved his best for last.

After a three-and-out by New England's offense, the Eagles got the ball back at their own 4 with 46 seconds left in the game.

"I was nervous with 17 seconds [left] and Donovan back there with the ball," Harrison said of the game's second-to-last play.

But Harrison turned concern into a catch. His second interception of the game ended Philly's hopes and clinched the Patriots' second title in as many seasons during Harrison's tenure.

"He's just a great player. He's clutch," said teammate Tedy Bruschi, who had New England's other interception. "It was good that the game ended with the defense making a play. The other two [Patriots' victories in] Super Bowls ended with the offense scoring, so it was good for him to end the game like this."

And the game also resulted in some redemption for Harrison and his secondary mates. He tried to downplay the minor controversy that began about 10 days ago, when Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell claimed he didn't know the names of New England's defensive backs and specifically said he had something for Harrison. But the safety admitted the comment provided a little more motivation.

"Of course it did …," said Harrison, who received a T-shirt from a Pats fan that read: "Who's No. 25?"

And through his play on the field and postgame comments, Harrison had the last words.

"You make them go out there and know your name," Harrison said. "I bet you [Mitchell] knows our numbers now."

James C. Black is an NFL Editor for ESPN.com and may be reached at james.black@espn3.com.

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