Sunday, January 18, 2004 Updated: January 20, 4:27 PM ET
Law's three picks spark Pats
By Len Pasquarelli ESPN.com
FOXBORO, Mass. -- Basking in the glory of a second AFC championship in three years, the opportunity for another piece of Super Bowl bling-bling, New England cornerback Ty Law might have thought about reminding Patriots management that it will probably come to him about a contract readjustment this spring.
Ty Law picked off three Peyton Manning passes.
And then again, he might have thought better if it, since his bargaining position figures to improve exponentially in a couple weeks.
"This isn't the time for any of that stuff," said Law, after his three interceptions here were a huge component of the Pats' 24-14 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. "No, not yet. We have one more step. This isn't the ultimate goal. That one is still to come. There is a big game still to go."
And after that, even if the Patriots capture Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, one has to wonder if Law, the splendid nine-year veteran, will go. The star corner has two years left on his contract, is due to earn a base salary of $5.65 million in 2004, and has a monstrous salary cap charge of $9.457 million. For the '05 season, his base salary is $8.75 million and his cap value is a mind-numbing $12.557 million.
Law witnessed his longtime secondary partner, the former strong safety Lawyer Milloy, summarily jettisoned this summer when he and New England ownership couldn't come to agreement on a whittled-down contract. There already have been whispers that Law will be asked to lower his cap number. Law has said he will try to cooperate, provided he isn't asked to accept a pay cut.
Coming off another Pro Bowl season, a year when he latched onto six interceptions while playing most of the season on an ankle that would have sidelined men with less tolerance for pain, it is difficult to imagine Law playing elsewhere in 2004.
For now, though, Law just wants to imagine how a second Super Bowl win will feel.
He certainly abetted the Patriots in moving closer to that goal with his performance against the red-hot Indianapolis offense in general and, more specifically versus Colts star wide receiver Marvin Harrison. For much of Sunday afternoon, he lined up across from Harrison and ended up catching as many balls as the Colts wideout. Harrison had only three catches for 19 yards, his longest grab an eight-yarder.
Law insisted the defensive design for slowing the Colts, and Harrison, was a simple one. But it involved great correlation between the New England front four, which played in its "nickel" look nearly all day, and the secondary. And in devising the antidote to the Colts' explosive attack, coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel made certain the aggressiveness of the Pats' secondary would not backfire, making a high-risk gambit something that didn't lead to high rewards for the Indianapolis passing game.
From the day the game plan was presented to the Pats defenders, early in the week, Law embraced an approach that usually gave him safety help over the top.
"We knew we could beat them up at the line of scrimmage, get our hands on them, and still have somebody behind us," Law said. "We couldn't go out there and just play some finesse ball game. They are more a finesse team and are better at that than we are. Give them credit for that. But we knew we would be more physical."
In truth, Law's interception hat trick was a combination of brain, brawn and ball skills. He has an incredible ability to adjust to the ball in the air, hands as sure as some of the wide receivers in the league, and an instinct for getting around the play.
His first pickoff came in the second quarter, when Peyton Manning tried to massage a pass to Harrison up the right sideline, and Law made a one-hand snatch. His second was a diving grab on a play where Manning was flushed right and overthrew Edgerrin James. The final one came when he was laying off deep, read the ball deep up the seam, and moved inside of Harrison again.
Clutching a football as he moved toward the locker room exit, Law was asked to look into the future, and his vision was limited to just two weeks hence.
"We got that business to take care of first," he said, of Super Bowl XXXVIII. "And then, well, we'll have to see. The best thing I can do as far as negotiating is to just go out and play football. Hopefully, they want to keep me around, and winning might help that."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.