Patriots defense keeps making big plays

Patriots defense keeps making big plays
September 8, 2013, 6:30 pm
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ORCHARD PARK, NY -- A two-point squeak past Buffalo, thanks to a 35-yard field goal with five seconds left in regulation, is probably not how the Patriots drew it up. But they certainly weren't whining in the locker room.

"A win's a win in the NFL; I'm happy about it," defensive end Rob Ninkovich said flatly. "I think we fought hard."

Cornerback Kyle Arrington shrugged in similar fashion: "It's definitely a confidence builder. First game of the season you want to set the bar high. We definitely made enough plays to win, but by no means was it perfect."

Both players were instrumental in extending an impressive Patriots streak: The Patriots defense has created a turnover in 28 straight games. Sunday against the Bills, Arrington forced two fumbles. Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly recovered the first and Ninkovich came up with the second. New England's offense scored touchdowns on the each of the ensuing drives.

"Sometimes you have to gamble out there," said Arrington, who also had a near-interception. "It's a game of opportunity and you have to try and capitalize as much as possible. You've just got to play situationally."

Vince Wilfork, Patriot for a decade and anchor of the defense, credited the unit's preparation.

"It's all about film study, seeing what your opponents tendencies are. Some of them are strong tendencies that we can take advantage of; we have certain calls, schemes that we can do to take advantage of them. And you just have to understand the way the game is going -- the quarter, the time, who you're facing, the down and distance," he explained.

"We kind of know from the calls we get from the sideline the mind frame of what we're thinking, how we want to be. Do we want to be aggressive? Are we kind of playing just to get to the next down? There's a lot of work that goes into it and, for the most part, we've been kind of good at taking advantage of things around here."

Arrington, Ninkovich, and Wilfork all noted the difference between being opportunistic and being flawless. They tempered positives, like the fourth quarter three-and-out that allowed New England to drive for the game-winning field goal, with negatives, like allowing Buffalo to open the second half with an 80-yard touchdown march that took less than four minutes.

So they'll watch the film. They'll study, they'll try and make corrections. But stressing Week 1's mistakes? Not part of the plan. One strength the Patriots have is built into the roster: 10 returning starters in the base defense of 11 players. Kelly, at tackle, is the lone fresh face.

Expectations for Wilfork's crew are lofty, he's just confident they'll meet them.

"We got a year under our belt and are starting fresh this year with the same bunch we left off with last year. We're very excited about it as a defense, to just have guys out there that played together for 16 or 18 games, whatever it was. We're looking for a pretty good season."