FOXBORO -- New England beat the Jets Thursday night because of its defense. That's the story.
The offense managed just 232 yards, nine first downs, and posted a dismal 22-percent conversion rate on third-down. That is how the Patriots, who have averaged 35.2 points against New York in their previous six meetings, squeaked out just 13 points this week.
How did the defense keep New York to 10? Two forced fumbles, six passes defensed, four sacks and nine quarterback hits laid on Geno Smith, and three interceptions.
"It's something we take pride in, rallying around and just being a team," safety Steve Gregory said of the rescue mission. "Sometimes the offense is going to need us to pick up the slack, and vice-versa. Just to go out and play as a team and do those types of things is important to us."
Smith completed 15 of 35 passes for 214 yards. Though you can heap six dropped passes onto his receivers, he didn't throw one touchdown. Something else the Patriots are happy about is limiting the mobile option quarterback to just three carries for 17 yards. The week before, Smith led the Jets rushing attack in yardage with 47. His six carries made his average 7.8 yards per run.
Which is why Gregory isn't thinking the defense just got lucky with a rookie. In light of facing another first-year quarterback in Week 1 (Buffalo's E.J. Manuel), he was asked if the team is glad to be easing into the season.
"I don't know if I'd call it easing in," Gregory said with a raised eyebrow. "Those guys are still pretty talented guys. They can run, they can definitely create some things when they get outside the pocket and present some challenges.
"I think we just did a good job of eliminating some of the things that they can do, tying the pressure from up front and the coverage in the back end, I think we executed our game plan pretty well."
Gregory feels more confident in his personal execution this season. He's a starter, paired with free safety Devin McCourty, and so far, looks good.
"This being my second year here, [I'm] understanding the system a little bit more, understanding the players that I'm playing with even more than I did last year. Those things are invaluable -- understanding each other. The more we work with each other, the better those things will come."
It's an idea you can apply to the defense as a whole. New England has 10 returning starters in its base 'D' of 11 players. If you include the slot corner and pass rusher coming in on sub-packages, the team has 11 familiar faces in 13 spots.
No small thing, says Gregory.
"The more times you get out there in the field of battle with the guys and go through those experiences, you learn from them and get better from them. So I think it creates a lot of opportunities for us to gel and understand that we've been in certain situations before and you know how guys are going to react or treat certain situations."