Pats 'D' takes on new look, better results

Pats 'D' takes on new look, better results
January 2, 2012, 1:04 am
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FOXBORO -- The Patriots' secondary knows it has to be better than it was in the first quarter, if the Pats want to have any shot at winning a playoff game.

It was in that first quarter of Sunday's 49-21 win over the Buffalo Bills, that the Patriots fell behind 21-0. The Bills moved the chains 13 times, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 13-of-16 for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

After that, the defense improved dramatically, especially the Patriots' secondary.

New England finished the game with four interceptions. All of them came in the second half. Sterling Moore had two, and Devin McCourty and Antwaun Molden each had one.

They were the type of big plays that everyone on the team wishes would be made for the entire 60 minutes, not just in the second half, after spotting teams 21 points.

"It says we're definitely capable of being a defense we want to be when we should be and when we need to be," said Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, who had an interception called back because of a penalty. "But then again, coming out spotting teams 17, 21 points is definitely not the answer. That's not going to get it done, come the postseason. So we have a lot of work to do still."

Part of the issue is always communication, and the Patriots' secondary had somewhat of a new look on Sunday, forcing the defensive backs to get accustomed to seeing McCourty -- a Pro Bowl cornerback -- playing the entire game at the safety position.

"He's a great athlete, so no matter where they put him, he's going to make plays, and I think he showed that today," said Moore. "So it's all about meshing as a defense. And during the week, it's about getting comfortable with who's out there, and we did that and fed off of it."

McCourty said afterwards that he couldn't remember the last time he played safety, but stressed the fact that he's willing to do whatever the coaches ask him to do, in order to help improve the defense for the upcoming playoff run.

"When you're on the edge as a cornerback, you have a different angle to see the offense," said McCourty. "You're looking outside in. But when you're in the middle, you can see the whole picture, standing right there.

"As the game went on, I got more and more comfortable," he added. "That's how a football game goes. As you play on throughout the game, the first two series or so, you start getting comfortable with the way the game's going, and you're just able to play."

"Were just trying to improve our team," said Belichick. "We worked with McCourty and Patrick Chung back there all week and thought it looked good this week in practice, so we went with it during the game. Im sure it could be better, but I thought they gave us some things back there. James Ihedigbo came in a played a solid role for us, too. We got good play out of all of those guys. We had some guys step up at the corner position Sterling Moore Antwaun Molden, so that was good, too. We got a lot of snaps out of Julian Edelman."

McCourty picked off a ball in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter that was tipped by Bills' running back C.J. Spiller on a slant route. It led to a Patriots touchdown drive that gave them a 35-21 lead with 11:16 left to play.

But perhaps it wasn't the biggest interception of the game. That would go to Moore.

With New England trailing 21-20, the rookie picked off a Fitzpatrick pass intended for Ruvell Martin with four minutes left in the third quarter, and gave the Patriots the ball at Buffalo's 25-yard line.

It led to a Rob Gronkowski touchdown that gave the Pats their first lead of the game.

"We knew at halftime that we were going to have to get some turnovers," said Moore. "That was going to put us back into the game. That was a big emphasis at halftime. So that's what we tried to go out there and do."

Moore's second-career interception came with three minutes left in the game, as he jumped an out-route and took it 21 yards to the house, giving the Patriots a 49-21 lead.

"Moore did a good job of recognizing the route pattern and undercutting the route or playing the route aggressively and being able to make a good play on the ball, too," said Belichick. "We got our hands on some balls; we dont always catch them, but we caught a few of them today. He made two real nice catches one with the receiver kind of on his back and then the other one where he undercut it. It looked like he bobbled it a little bit on the catch. They were both tough catches and plays that he anticipated well and made the play on, so it was good."

"He did a heck of a job," said Arrington. "It's just what Bill is all about. if you're not a starter, always prepare like you are one. And whenever you're number is called, you know you have a job to do. And he did a heck of a job."