Patriots keep winning even when offense falters
Tom Brady actually threw an interception.
Don’t worry Patriots fans, your team finally has a decent
defense and big-play special teams to step up when the NFL’s best
On a day when Brady was picked off for the first time in six
games and New England gained a season-low 321 yards, the
once-suspect defense delivered. It had its second stingiest game of
the year, allowing just 277 yards, in a 23-16 win over the Miami
Dolphins on Sunday.
That clinched the ninth AFC East title in 10 years for the
Patriots (9-3) and extended their winning streak to six games.
”When (the) offense struggles, it’s a chance for us to showcase
how special we are on the defensive end,” tackle Vince Wilfork
said. ”Offense is OK to have a bad game here and there. They’ve
done so much for us and one thing we want to do around here is we
always want to play as a team.”
They’ve been doing that quite well lately.
In their last three games, the Patriots have scored 11
touchdowns on offense, three on defense and two on special
They’ve cut down on the long completions by opposing
quarterbacks. They’ve improved over the last two games from
allowing the fifth most yards in the NFL to seventh.
Their turnover differential has gotten much better with 17
takeaways and just three giveaways during their six-game surge.
”We’ve had some better results recently, statistically,” coach
Bill Belichick said Monday. ”We’ve continued to win.”
If the defensive players improve the communication among
themselves and their execution the longer they’re together, he
said, ”then we’ll play better next week than we played this
Even when the defense doesn’t score, it’s helped the offense by
stopping opponents deep in their own territory and forcing them to
punt. The Dolphins managed just two first downs on their first five
possessions and gained less than 10 yards on six of their first
”(Sunday) was a great example of a team win,” offensive
coordinator Josh McDaniels said. ”The defense really has made a
lot of plays for us all season long, set us up with great field
position with turnovers, and given us opportunities to get the ball
in plus-field position a number of times.”
But McDaniels isn’t used to seeing his offense sputter the way
it did for much of the game in Miami. It had gained more than 440
yards in six of its previous eight games. Brady had thrown 20
touchdowns and two interceptions in that stretch.
But they didn’t score a touchdown after the first six minutes of
the second quarter against Miami.
”We didn’t convert as often as we like,” Brady said.
But they did that when they had a chance to close out the game.
Leading 20-13, the Patriots got the ball with 8:28 and didn’t give
it back until just 1:10 remained. That 16-play, 77-yard drive
lasted 7:18 and led to a field goal that made it a two-possession
That mattered a lot more to Belichick than the poor production
”We don’t go into any game thinking, `It’s going to be this way
or it’s going to be that way. This is going to be a 50-49 game or
it’s going to be a 3-2 game or that kind of thing,”’ he said.
”Ultimately, at the end, it comes down to being able to make the
plays you need to make to win the game.”
They did that Sunday.
”We’ve been in those situations before where we’ve thrown up a
lot of big numbers,” Belichick said, ”or scored some points and
then get to that (late) point in the game and go
Avoiding that could be critical next Monday night when Houston
The Texans (11-1) currently have the top seed in the AFC with
the Baltimore Ravens second. The Patriots must pass one of them in
their four remaining regular-season games to get a first-round
So coordinator Matt Patricia knows his defense will have to keep
playing well against Houston.
”You’re talking about a very balanced, very well-put-together
offense,” he said.
If the game is close, Belichick hopes his team can come up with
big plays down the stretch, just as it did in Miami.
”That’s what I’d like to see from an offense or a defense or
any part of your team for that matter, to make the critical plays
that you need to make to win the game,” he said. ”That’s really
what it’s all about, not a bunch of stats.”
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