Much-maligned defense delivers for New England
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP)
As explosive as New England's offense was during its second-half surge
against Buffalo on Sunday, the Patriots defense might have been the
ringleader for the quick turnaround.
While quarterback Tom Brady was busy orchestrating another patented
comeback, leading the offense to 580 total yards of offense and 45
second-half points, New England's defense actually ignited the charge,
forcing six turnovers in the Patriots' 52-28 victory.
New England entered the game with just five turnovers through three
''We emphasize it every week. We've got our hands on some balls this
year - some we've turned over, some we haven't. And we've forced a few
fumbles - sometimes we've recovered them, sometimes we haven't. But
those things kind of went right for us,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick
said Monday. ''I think if you just keep pressuring the ball, hopefully
sooner or later, you'll get it out and hopefully sooner or later, some
of those will come to you.''
They arrived in bunches Sunday. As did the yards and touchdowns.
But that's expected from a Brady-led attack that perennially ranks
among the league's most dynamic and dangerous, and is constantly
setting new standards. The Patriots on Sunday became just the second
team ever to have two players eclipse 100 yards rushing and two surpass
100 yards receiving. Running backs Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley
racked up 137 and 106 yards, respectively, while receiver Wes Welker
totaled 129 and tight end Rob Gronkowski 104.
The 580 yards were the fourth-most in team history, while 45 points in
the second half was a franchise best total and the fourth highest in
Six turnovers for the defense, though? That was a shocker. Special
teamer Matthew Slater, in fact, couldn't recall the last time the
Patriots defense bombarded an opponent so fiercely.
''Those guys did a great job of taking advantage of the opportunities
that presented themselves - getting balls out and then when they were
out, they got on them,'' Slater said. ''Everybody was making plays
Slater cited the balance between veteran leadership and burgeoning
youth as the primary reason for the drastically different performance.
''They're playing lights out. They've played well for us all year,'' he
said. ''With Vince (Wilfork) and Jerod (Mayo) holding down the fort and
bringing those young guys on board, I think the future is very bright.''
Right in the middle of that group is third-year cornerback Devin McCourty, who intercepted two passes Sunday and keyed a unit that
recorded three sacks in helping the Patriots avoid their first
three-game losing streak since 2002.
''It helped us win the game,'' McCourty said. ''So, I think that's
important for us, something that we're trying to do. And to get it done
is good for us.''
Third-year linebacker Brandon Spikes played a pivotal part, too,
forcing two fumbles, including a game-changer late in the second
quarter near the Patriots' own goal line. Following a fumble by Welker
deep in Patriots' territory, Buffalo was on the cusp of entering the
locker room with a comfortable 21-7 lead before Spikes delivered a
crushing blow on running back C.J. Spiller, jarring the ball loose for
Wilfork to pounce on at the New England 4.
''It's just big plays,'' McCourty said. ''Defensively, we have to make
The Bills scored on their first possession of the second half when Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with Donald Jones for a slicing 68-yard
touchdown. But that wrapped it up for the Bills' offense. It didn't
Brady, who finished 22 of 36 for 340 yards with three touchdowns and no
interceptions, engineered six straight touchdown drives, including one
that ended with his first rushing touchdown of the season. Meanwhile,
the defense clamped down, forcing three turnovers in the fourth quarter
while allowing the Bills to advance the ball past the 50 on just one of
their final seven possessions.
''They're giving us the ball in great field position. That's huge for
us,'' Slater said. ''Playing good complementary football yesterday and
doing that, it really was a great team effort for us.''
Duplicating that monumental effort against Peyton Manning and the
Denver Broncos next Sunday will be an even taller task.
''He's one of those guys that you have to put a little extra time in to
be able to just hold your own, let alone play well,'' McCourty said.
''You really got to put the time in.''
It all started Monday.
All questions about the Patriots offense have to wait, at least until the scoreboard stops spinning…