LONDON - The travails of the Patriots defense through the first seven games of the 2012 season didn't escape the attention of the men playing on it.
But while the rest of us were casting about for answers to why a fairly talented group could be so consistently ineffective, the actual players were less mystified.
After Sunday's 45-7 win over the Rams, linebacker Rob Ninkovich said he believes the defense has the ability to play that way more often.
"As a defense, you want to improve every week and theres been some big plays that you dont want to give up the past few games," Ninkovich explained. "We just want to continue to, week-by-week, improve so that by the end of the season we look like a totally different defense, rather than good one week, poor the next. We want to be more consistent."
The one simple thing that has made consistency elusive has been individual breakdowns on plays. The Patriots are loathe to point the finger at which player or players screwed up, but it's not quantum physics either. When a defensive back gets beat badly on a throw where the quarterback gets rid of the ball in under three seconds, it's not on the pass rush. It's on the coverage. And that's what we've seen time and again. Downfield throws that come out in an average amount of time targeting receivers left uncovered. Sunday, there wasn't much of that against the Rams who, it seemed, didn't try too hard to go downfield either.
Ninkovich was asked if Sunday's performance could possibly become the status quo.
"Every week we prepare to put our best game out there on the field," he said. "The other team has good players, but weve got to make more. Weve got to make more plays on defense and get our offense on the field. The more times Tom and crew are out there on the field, the more chances we have to win. We just have to get em the ball."
With games against the Colts, Dolphins, Jets and Bills coming up, the Patriots should have chances against young andor struggling quarterbacks where they can build on Sunday's win.