Arrington steps up and into prime role in Pats 'D'

Arrington steps up and into prime role in Pats 'D'
November 22, 2011, 8:40 am
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FOXBORO -- You could call him lucky. You could say Kyle Arrington's two interceptions Monday night were a right-place, right-time kind of thing.

The Patriots secondary, overall, couldn't care less about what you think.

"We go out there with the attitude of playing with a chip on our shoulder," said James Ihedigbo. "People can criticize and say what they want. In the secondary, all we have is us, and we've got to go out there each week with that mentality."

Be clear: Ihedigbo, Arrington and the rest knew they were hunting a wounded deer in Chiefs back-up Tyler Palko. The question wasn't if Palko would be intercepted, it was a matter of how many times. The answer, housed within New England's 34-3 win, is three . . . two by Arrington.

His first pick came just before the first half's two-minute warning and gave the offense a chance to bolster its 7-3 lead. The second came off a tip-drill on a second-and-eight throw in the third quarter. Arrington snatched the ball out of the air and ran 16 yards before being brought down.

"Being a left-handed quarterback, a lot of balls are going to come to our right -- the side I'm on -- so I just prepared and tried to keep out of his vision on a lot of his throws," said Arrington. "He throws off his back foot a lot and balls sailed out a few times, so keep out of his vision and try to make a good break on it was key."

It doesn't sound much like luck.

Monday's interceptions were numbers six and seven for the season -- the league's best total. Arrington's postgame podium appearance highlighted his preparation. For as bad as Palko was at times -- Philip Adams' end zone pick was grabbed out of triple coverage -- the secondary didn't just bank on his inexperience.

"It's definitely guys putting work in during the week," Ihedigbo said. "It's studying as a group, studying real concepts. We knew the type of throws we'd be getting in this game: shots, quick throws . . . getting the ball out of Palko's hands quick."

Not having much film on him complicated the assignment. A crucial part of Monday night's plan was making in-game adjustments.

"It's tough because its offense in itself -- each week they do different things, each game they have different route concepts," said Arrington. "We knew that Kansas City would try to have a simple offense because it's Palko's first start; it couldn't be that complex. After the first couple of series we settled in, we knew what the game plan was going to be, and we attacked it. "

Arrington's teammates say he sets a prime example. He only knows one speed in practice: Full-tilt. Ask him about progress and he'll be frustrated he isn't there yet. Ask him about one interception and he'll be thinking about the ball he dropped.

Though injured corner Devin McCourty is still breaking down film and studying with the active secondary, he's not on the field to set the tone for his teammates.

More pressure for Arrington. The others say he's handling it well.

"He's a competitor," said corner Antwaun Molden. "Iron sharpens iron, so when Kyle's out there making plays it helps each and every one of us to make us want to step up and make a play too -- step our game up."

Molden almost had a pick of his own in the end zone.

He and the rest will have more chances over the coming weeks as the Patriots face more ailing opponents (and some hapless quarterbacks): Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Washington, Denver, Miami, Buffalo. The fact that some will poo-poo the New England secondary's flexing against weaker foes doesn't bother them. Arrington says he likes the potential of this crew and will be happy to exploit whatever opportunities keep them moving forward.

He grows; they grow.

"The bar has always been set with us," said Ihedigbo. "Regardless of what the critics say, we don't listen to that. We just come in here and work hard. Hard work plays off."

In other words, they make their own luck.