BOSTON (CBS) – Patriots head coach Bill Belichick summed it up best on Sunday when it comes to the New England defense.
“Well, we’re 2-0. We did some good things; there are some things we’ve got to do better, things we need to work on,” Belichick said after the Patriots 35-21 win over the Chargers on Sunday. “I’d characterize the whole team that way – offensively, defensively, special teams. We’ve done enough to win two games. We beat two good football teams, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
While the Patriots defense looked good on some aspects of the game, forcing four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions) and clamping down in the red zone, there are some not so shiny spots. The team struggled on third downs, and because of that gave up some long drives to San Diego.
The Patriots allowed the Chargers to convert 10 of their 12 third downs, and gave up three drives of 10 plays or more.
The third down numbers are a cause for concern in the locker room.
“It does and that’s something for us to be constantly working on because those downs are always key and always important,” said defensive end Andre Carter, who tallied two tackles against the Chargers. “If you can’t get them on third down, it tends to wear on you a little bit. That’s something that’s going to be constantly discussed throughout the weeks. Teams are going to look at that on film and be like ‘Okay.’ We struggled a little bit so it’s up to us to eliminate that.”
Read/Watch: Andre Carter on Sports Final
Another cause for concern is the high yard totals the Patriots have been surrendering. They have given up a combined 958 yards in two weeks, and over the first two games. opponents have been picking on Pro Bowl corner Devin McCourty. He has had difficutlies with larger receivers in Miami’s Brandon Marshall (seven receptions, 139 yards) and San Diego’s Vincent Jackson (10 receptions, 172 yards and two touchdowns).
McCourty does admit he needs to get better, but also thinks there needs to be more consistency when it comes to the secondary.
“We just have to keep getting better. There are some plays which we are making the right plays on, like Sergio Brown making the big interception, and then we have a couple of good stops. Then there are plays where I was beat on two touchdowns,” said McCourty. “So right now it comes down to being more consistent and not making great plays sometimes but to keep it going and string them together.”
While there were blemishes in the win, it is hard to look past the D’s success in the red zone. The Chargers marched down the field to get inside the 20 four times, but only found the end zone twice. The Patriots also held the Miami Dolphins to 50-percent in the red zone in Week One.
One of the key moments on Sunday came on a goal-line stand late in the second quarter. The Patriots stopped the Chargers on four straight plays, capped off by linebacker Jerod Mayo stuffing Mike Tolbert at the one-yard line on fourth and goal. The stop turned into another 99-yard touchdown drive by Tom Brady and company.
“We always say, ‘When you kick the ball off, special teams goes and makes a play, pins them deep, then the defense goes three and out, the offense goes and scores,’” said Mayo after the win. “That is complimentary football like I’ve been saying. It’s just great to go out and play like that.”
“A goal line stand, I mean, fourth down and basically everyone is on their toes. There was a situation that we talked about as a defense that may happen, knowing that they are coming in with a different kicker, that there may be problems in that area,” said Vince Wilfork, who had his first career interception on Sunday. “So we always thought that could come up at some point in the game, a full-down territory for them. I didn’t know it was going to happen that early, but you know, everyone was alert on that play. Jerod made a hell of a play. That’s why he is one of the top linebackers in the game.”
“Goal line is a mindset in general,” said Carter. “We knew that, especially during that particular series, it was a big drive. We played our responsibilities and Mayo was there to make the tackle. That’s the mindset of becoming a big defense.”
“The red zone is the most important part of the field,” said linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who had four tackles and a sack on Sunday. “They are going in to score and if you can stop them from scoring that affects the game. So we are going to continue to work on that and be good in the red zone. It’s a goal to be a good red zone defense.”
The goal line stop, and their number of turnovers, has their coach was pleased so far.
“Four turnovers are big,” said Belichick. “The goal line stand was really another stop there… You can’t say enough about those turnovers. That had a huge impact on the game and the goal line stand. (The Chargers) moved the ball, just fortunately, they didn’t get enough points, but they certainly moved it.”