BOSTON (CBS) –Let’s not jump totally on the bandwagon, but it’s starting to look like the New England Patriots defense is headed in the right direction.
For the second week in a row, the Pats patchwork defense played well. Despite the injuries and new faces, everybody is starting to find themselves on the same page.
Even though the performances have come against quarterbacks named Mark Sanchez and Tyler Palko, the mish-mosh of undrafted free agents and practice squad players should be proud given their performances early in the season.
But they aren’t.
“We’re not satisfied, but we like the direction that we are going,” said corner Kyle Arrington, who had two more interceptions to bring his NFL-leading total to seven. “[If] we just keep preparing, stay focused and come out and play for each other and play hard like that for 60 minutes, I think we will be in pretty good shape down the road.”
60 minutes was the word in the locker room Monday night, and that has been the focus since their loss to Pittsburgh. The unit is still a work in progress but make no mistake, the defense got the gold star against the Chiefs.
But they still feel though they have a ways to go.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said nose tackle Vince Wilfork after Monday night’s 34-3 win over the Chiefs. “Each week you get tougher and tougher. I think you have to be able to move forward and get better each week because the opponents get tougher, games get tougher. Later in the season, you have to be able to win ball games in November and December, so that’s where we are. It wasn’t perfect out there, but at the same time, we made a lot of plays tonight and it’s very exciting to give up just three points as a defense.”
While they have not really been tested, the defense has been able to step up and win the turnover battle. For two straight weeks, they have forced three turnovers (three picks Monday night, two picks and a fumble last week against the Jets).
“Turnovers and points off turnovers – that decides a game a lot in most cases,” said Arrington. “Like I said previously, we try to be a very opportunistic defense, so when those opportunities present themselves we just have to jump on them.”
“Kyle is a great player,” said linebacker Rob Ninkovich, who had two picks of his own last week against the Jets. “He’s always in the right spots and he is having a great year. As long as he continues to keep on producing like that, we will keep on producing on defense.”
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Even when the Patriots ball magnet went down with an arm injury in the fourth, replacement corner Phillip Adams was able to step in a come up with a pick in the end zone; the first of his NFL career.
Adams and the rest of the defense does not care for the lack of respect being thrown their way, from the pundits or opposing offenses.
“All we have to do is get better day after day, week after week, we just continue to get better,” said Adams. “It really doesn’t matter if they do or they don’t. Every week we are going to go into practice and work hard regardless if they are going to give us respect or not.”
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It also helps the secondary that the pass-rush has come into its own. Ninkovich picked up a sack on Palko, along with another 1.5 from Mark Anderson and .5 from Andre Carter. Carter now leads the team with nine on the season, but Anderson is not far behind with seven.
“We complement each other,” Carter said of Anderson. “I think every week as we prepare for an opponent, we just constantly work off each other. At times they may be chipping me a little bit, he has an opportunity to win a one-on-one matchup and that’s how it’s supposed to be. So I’m very proud of him and he’s doing well.”
Although they likely will not be tested until the playoffs, with their opponents sporting a 20-40 record the rest of the way, the Patriots have a chance to get some momentum going and build confidence in their make-shift defense.
Whether they are playoff-ready or not, that will be determined in the coming weeks.
“We are going to take it one game at a time, but I think we have the possibility of being a pretty good defense as long as we play well and get better each week,” said Wilfork. “[We] can’t get complacent; that’s one thing we can’t do. We can’t sit back and say we only gave up three points and everything is all good, because it’s not. We always have to work on little things.”
“We go out there [and] no matter who we play, we play as hard as we can,” said Arrington. “And we’ve got an extremely great test coming up next week versus the Eagles, so we are going to have to go out there and play another 60-minute game again.”