Patriots Defense ‘Stepped Up Big’ But Still Looking To Improve
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BOSTON (CBS) – The New England Patriots defense was not perfect on Sunday, but they showed vast improvements from the first four games of the season.
“We had our moments,” said head coach Bill Belichick after their 31-20 win over the Jets. “We had some three-and-outs. We didn’t play very well in the red area and we still gave up 21 points, but it was enough to win. Certainly, there are things we can improve on, but I think we have improved and hopefully we keep building on that and continue to get better each week.”
“I think we stepped up big today,” nose tackle Vince Wilfork said after the victory. “I think every week we’ve been getting better and better. Today was a good day to get back on track. I think a lot of guys took it upon themselves to go out and make plays and be in the right position without giving up big plays. I am very proud of the defense.”
Read: Pats-Jets Highs and Lows
For the first time this season the Patriots defense allowed less than 400 total yards for the game, holding the Jets to just 255 yards. Quarterback Mark Sanchez totaled just 166 yards through the air, with the Jets run-attacked grounded at just 97 yards.
The Patriots forced the Jets into seven three-and-outs in 12 of their possessions; something the defense took a lot of pride in after the win.
“You know, every time we did it, and the offense went out, and then we went right back on the field. I just remember guys saying to each other ‘Hey let’s do it again.’ Because we knew eventually our offense was going to get back on track and put some points up,” said Wilfork, who had two tackles on the afternoon.
“It was really big and it is one of the things we really harp on in practice and putting us in the position to getting us off the field after third down,’ said defensive end Mark Anderson, who had 1.5 sacks against New York. “We executed the game plan well stopping them on first and second down and putting them into a position of third and long, we then put the pressure on the quarterback and the defensive backs playing bump and cover which gave us a chance to make plays.”
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The Jets did not get a first down until 10:27 remaining in the second quarter.
The Patriots defense also kept big plays out of the equation, with New York’s longest strike of the afternoon a 22-yard connection between Mark Sanchez and Jeremy Kerley in the fourth quarter. Sanchez and Santonio Holmes also hooked up on a 21-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, making it 27-21 New England.
Along with an 88-yard kick return in the third, those were the only big plays New England allowed. The longest rushing play they gave up was nine yards.
While it was not perfect, the Patriots definitely see improvement.
“This was definitely our best game and now we have to continue to get better,” said Andre Carter, who pressured Sanchez every chance he got. “Unfortunately the Jets had a long drive in the second quarter and that is unacceptable on my part, but overall this was a stepping-stone and we will just have to continue to get better.”
One area they hope to improve on is pressure on the quarterback. While Sanchez was harassed at some points of the game, he remained relatively untouched at others. The Pats registered just two sacks and five quarterback hits.
“We got a little pressure, but I definitely want to improve on that so we can hit the quarterback more,” said defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who returned after missing the last two weeks with a bad back. “I think we let (Sanchez) loose too many times. My goal is to, anytime he’s going to throw the ball, at least 50-percent he’s got to be on the ground after throwing the ball.”
“We’re trying to improve every week and we’ve been seeing it,” Haynesworth continued. “Guys are flying around in practice, making plays in practice. We’re working hard, getting better and that’s when you’ll see improvement.”
“Is everything perfect? No. There are a lot of things we could better but I think the penalties are down, [and] we aren’t giving up big plays,” said Wilfork. “We have to continue to grow. We definitively have to continue to grow, continue to get better, but I think we definitely did a good job tonight.”