BOSTON (CBS) – With names like Sterling Moore and Jeff Tarpinian starting on defense, the Patriots needed an all-out team effort to get a win over the New York Jets.
That is exactly what they got in the 37-16 win Sunday night.
“All the credit needs goes to the players,” coach Bill Belichick said after the victory. “They really prepared well, never got down even though we lost a couple tough games. They kept the attitude up, kept the preparation up. They came out here and just competed as hard as they could tonight. They really deserved it, they were a better team tonight.”
The Patriots were without defensive starters Patrick Chung, who was inactive with an ankle injury, and corner Devin McCourty, who left with a separated shoulder in the second quarter. An already thin New England secondary took two big hits, but those that were next in line were ready to step in and play their role.
Sterling Moore started in place of Chung, the first of his career, and Antwaun Molden stepped in for McCourty. The Patriots also got contributions from special-teamers Tracy White and Tarpinian. While the performance was far from perfect, they held strong. Despite the lack of NFL experience or big name talent, the defense held the Jets to just a pair of touchdowns.
“We made the plays when we had to make them,” said Belichick. “It wasn’t perfect, but when we had to make them we made them. Again, all the credit goes to all those guys. You can name 20 guys, they did a great job.”
“It’s a great team win,” said linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who had two interceptions in the game. “Guys go down, that’s football. Guys go down and get hurt, someone has to step in. Whatever role their asked to do, they have to go in and play that role to the best of their abilities. Guys were injured, and guys came in and did their job. It was a great team win.”
“I think individually we had to raise our level of play,” nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “There was no magic wand we had to pull out or anything, it was just being able to execute. Do more. I’m not saying guys weren’t doing what needed to be done, but doing more stuff; extra film, extra conditioning, whatever it may be. Just doing stuff extra. A lot of guys took it upon themselves to do that, and it showed.”
“We battle,” quarterback Tom Brady said when asked what he learned about his team. “We were saying some of the guys in there, we know who they are but we’ve never seem them perform under pressure. Some of the guys are coming in off the practice squad… a lot of guys really stepped up to the challenge; it was good to see.”
The Patriots also got another huge performance from defensive end Andre Carter, who set a franchise record with 4.5 sacks in the game.
“In general, we’re just a team that goes out there and tries to find a way to win,” said Carter, now up to nine sacks for the season. “It’s been definitely frustrating to lose two close games back-to-back. There wasn’t a time when we questioned ourselves, but there was a time where we had to look at ourselves in the mirror as men and as football players and just say ‘okay, what will be our defining moment?’ Either we’re going to go out there and be unsuccessful or play the game we know we’re capable of doing.”
While they may be without the big name players, the defense is starting to gain confidence. The pass-rush was the best it has been, and forcing three takeaways without guys like Chung and McCourty on the field gives New England reason to feel good about themselves, at least for now.
While the hope is they will get their injured stars back, the team is still confident in “the next man up” if it comes down to that.
“Who knows who will be playing where? I know one thing; these guys are tough mentally and physically,” said Belichick. “They’ll stand up to the challenge and give their best. That counts for a lot. The game’s not too big for them.”