FOXBORO -- Rob Ninkovich could not deny it felt good to beat New Orleans.
New England staged a clutch comeback in the final 73 seconds of Sunday night's game to win over the previously undefeated Saints.
Ninkovich was involved in a key play that helped get the ball back to the offense. Just under the two minute warning, New Orleans tried a bootleg on third-and-7. Ninkovich anticipated the play and warned fellow defensive end Chandler Jones. When quarterback Drew Brees rolled out to the left, Jones was waiting.
"I said, 'Chan, alert: There's something coming to your side. They'd probably like to do that right about now.' That time in the game, a boot to the quarterback would be a good idea," he explained. "We talk a lot during the game. We communicate back-and-forth about what we think's going to happen."
Brees was sacked for a loss of five yards and the Saints were forced to punt.
Another point of pride for the defense? Holding tight end Jimmy Graham, who led the NFL in receiving yards heading into Sunday's tilt, to zero catches.
No easy task.
"I'm sure fantasy guys were going nuts and were bummed they got no points from him," Ninkovich said wryly. "But [cornerback Aqib Talib] did a great job on him. That just shows how great Aqib is at covering guys. It's great to have [Graham] come away with a not so good game."
It was a hard-fought win, a complimentary win; something New England could be proud of. But the Patriots only do so much regular season reveling.
"You kind of take it in today, enjoy it for today and tomorrow and then it's over and you've got to move onto the Jets," Ninkovich said.
Injuries may put a damper on any excitement.
New England's roster has taken some serious hits in the early weeks of this season. Starting nose tackle Vince Wilfork suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 4. The following Sunday, Tommy Kelly injured his right knee; he was inactive against the Saints.
And it hasn't stopped there.
Talib, who had been doing so well against Graham, suffered a hip flexor injury and left the game. Linebacker Jerod Mayo hurt his right arm while breaking up a pass in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots' already patchwork 'D' might have to be reworked again this week.
"It's a team defense here. Just like anything you have to deal with in an NFL season, there's ups and downs that every team has to go through with whoever it is on the field," Ninkovich shrugged. "We're just going to continue to do what we do, work hard together, and come together as a team on defense. Guys like myself have to have more of a leadership role and do a little bit more."
Some will call it bad luck. New England is just calling it football.
"There's always going to be something that happens. That's just the way the NFL works."