Tapangan: Patriots Defense Shines Unexpectedly
When the experts were asked who should be favored on Sunday night, NBC
analysts elected to go with what they perceived as the safe bet; Gang
“New England is just too banged up on defense, I take the Jets.” stated
former Colts head coach Tony Dungy during the pregame show. Even former
Patriot Rodney Harrison elected to choose the New York Jets over the
New England Patriots for Sunday Night Football’s AFC East
The Patriots long list of injuries and a track record of defensive
problems were enough to support the picks.
Friday’s injury report had some familiar names that drew some initial
concern for the Patriots, especially on defense. Inactive
players included: WR Taylor Price, S Patrick Chung, RB Shane Vereen, LB
Dane Fletcher, LB Brandon Spikes and OL Donald Thomas. A closer look at
the depth chart after reviewing the collection of names on injured
reserve made the depth concerns even more alarming.
But how the game concluded was not something that anyone could have
predicted: A Patriots win over the Jets with a final score of 37-16.
More importantly, it was the defense -- which was underwhelming at
points through the night -- that came out on top when the game was on
During the postgame press conference, Bill Belichick had compliments
ready for every side of the ball.
“Everybody stepped up. Special teams, defense, offense, we made the
plays when we had to make them,” Belichick said. “It wasn't perfect,
but when we had to make them, we made them. Again, all the credit goes
to them and you could name 20 guys in here. They did a great job.”
Defensive end Andre Carter, who came to the Patriots as a free agent in
August on 2011, had a stellar game with 4.5 sacks. Carter, who was
originally drafted seventh overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2001,
set a Patriots franchise record with the most sacks in a game. Sunday
night’s game was also the third time in 2011 that Carter had two or
Underrated and somewhat overlooked, Carter proved to be the defensive
pressure that the Patriots needed to shake up the Mark Sanchez-led Jets
QB Mark Sanchez gets sacked by Patriots DE Andre Carter Nov 13,
2011 (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
As far as the quarterback battle was concerned, statistically, Tom Brady was impressive: 26 of 39 passes for 329 yards, three touchdowns
and no interceptions.
Yet, when Brady running New England’s offense, a number of his passes
were off the mark, they were overthrown, underthrown and
other times just flat out off target. The performance raised questions
as to whether or not Brady had lingering “mystery” injury that was
affecting the velocity of his passes.
But when watching the first half in comparison to the second half of
the game, it was as if Brady was two different players: Slow and
sluggish in the first half then efficient and quick to execute in the
The night, however, belonged to the Patriots’ defense. New England kept
Mark Sanchez in check, limiting him to just 20 of 39 pass completions
(51%) for 306 yards and one touchdown. The bigger problems for the
young quarterback were the five sacks for a total loss of 38 yards and
the pair of interceptions he threw.
It seemed as though because the Patriots were playing so terribly that
Tom Brady’s “elbow injury” became the highlight of the first half. Of
course, it’s nothing that a pair of touchdown passes to TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Deion Branch couldn’t fix.
When the Patriots forged ahead in the second half,the questions about
Brady’s injury vanished. It was classic Tom Brady, doing what he did
best throwing to the usual suspects. Rob Gronkowski grabbed a pair of
Brady passes for touchdowns while Wes Welker quietly became the fastest
player in NFL history to reach 500 receptions with one team.
Welker took his time to make his presence felt in the contest, but for
most Patriots fans, it was perfect timing.
Two meager catches for a receiver in a game may not seem like much,
especially when you’re dealing with the high expectations of a player
like Chad Ochocinco. But when you’ve only started two games,
managed just 11 catches all season with no touchdowns, two big catches
in a division game could satisfy the doubters...perhaps if only for a
week. Ochocinco’s two catches totaled 65 yards.
The game was not without cost. The Patriots suffered a major loss when
CB Devin McCourty went out of the game due to what turned out to be a
separated shoulder. McCourty was injured when he collided with rookie
teammate Sterling Moore trying to tackle Plaxico Burress.
With its highs and lows, Sunday night’s game was truly a turning point
for the Patriots. As they approach the easier part of their schedule,
only time will tell if this patchwork Patriots defense can balance out
the explosive offense.
The Patriots will face the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday,
November 21, 2011. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m.
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Kisha Tapangan is contributing writer for Patriots Insider.com. She
also manages the blog Necessary Roughness with Kisha.
She can also be found on twitter @KishaT.
Feel free to email her your thoughts here.