LONDON For the first time in a while, a postgame locker room wasnt filled with whispered promises from defensive backs about trying to get better or working to get better.
We didnt hear those because, on Sunday against the Rams, they actually did . . . get better.
Oh, it didnt start too better. Six plays into the game, the Rams were dancing in the end zone after a 50-yard Sam Bradford to Chris Givens bomb. But that was not a harbinger of what was to come.
The trickle didnt turn into a deluge this time. This time, the Patriots defense plugged it up.
Some of it had to do with scheme. Somebody called for more blitzes safety blitzes, linebacker blitzes, twists and stunts along the defensive line although Bill Belichick said after the game he wasnt sure there really were more dialed up than normal.
Whatever the case, the secondary benefited from pressure up front and the Rams refusal or inability to challenge downfield.
For the embattled secondary it was, to quote Jerod Mayo, Huge.
Guys are weathering the storm, said Mayo after the Patriots limited the Rams to 209 passing yards, picked Sam Bradford off twice and rendered Steven Jackson a non-factor. We always talk about ignoring the noise, but sometimes you can't help but hear it. I think this game was a steppingstone for people to grow. People can continue to get better. We feel if we can put a couple of things together, we can be a pretty dangerous team.
Vince Wilfork said the change began against the Jets, even though the Patriots made Mark Sanchez look almost serviceable.
We gave up 300-some yards passing, whatever it may be. But I saw guys in that game being physical, using their hands, and sometimes being called for pass interference. But it didn't discourage them from doing what we wanted to do, Wilfork explained. Those guys being able to get the ball for our offense - those are huge plays. We always talk about when the ball is in air, think of it as ours.
Everything is not going to be perfect, reminded Wilfork. It's football, nothing is perfect. We are definitely learning. We are still learning. But we are going to continue to play better. We try to get better each weekend, and hopefully this team will be a special team.
The Rams were a little confounded about how things got so ridiculous so quickly.
You look at their defense and I think they were 30th defending the pass, said Bradford. We came into this game really expecting to move the ball.
They did. In fits and starts. But never with any sense of impending here it comes".
Considering the Patriots secondary was again without its starting safeties and lost starting corner Kyle Arrington after the first drive, its worth looking harder at why they played better. And the presence of Devin McCourty at safety continues to be a common denominator in better play back there.
I felt today I did a better job communicating, getting all those guys on the right track, McCourty explained. Actually once you have some moving parts back there, guys go down, it's important everybody lines up and plays the same defense. They put me back there, put me in charge of making sure everyone knows what they're doing. I felt I did a better job this week than last week. Things started to slow down for me back there.
Well see if McCourty sticks back there. You know the saying, If it aint broke, dont fix it.
After one competent game, its too soon to conclude the Patriots secondary is no longer broken. But the fix may be closer to being in.