Patriots Defense Back On Track?

The New England Patriots defense showed glimpses of the Patriots of old on Sunday. Can they keep it up?

Just like the old days, makeshift defense comes through
The Sports Xchange

   You could've borrowed this script from the 2004 season, back in the days when wide receiver Troy Brown used to fill in at cornerback.

   The Patriots played Sunday's game in New York without safety Patrick Chung and lost cornerback Devin McCourty shortly thereafter, yet they somehow pieced together one of their best defensive efforts of the season in a 37-16 win over the Jets.

   Credit the pass rush, along with some much-needed creativity and aggressiveness by the coaching staff. Led by Andre Carter's franchise-record 4.5 sacks, the Patriots spent the entire night harassing Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, taking pressure off a secondary without most of its key components.

   This is what the Patriots always used to do during their Super Bowl days -- they'd enter a key game with several important players on the inactive list, and then turn in an unpredictable performance in a surprising victory.

   Granted, Sanchez isn't an elite quarterback, and the Jets don't scare too many people offensively, but the presence of rangy receiver Plaxico Burress and tight end Dustin Keller should've been enough for New York to keep the game more competitive than it wound up being down the stretch.

   The Patriots simply wouldn't allow it. Their makeshift defensive lineup, spearheaded primarily by five starters who were undrafted as rookies, performed swimmingly, limiting Sanchez to one touchdown and intercepting him twice. New England scored 17 points off New York turnovers, a key factor in the victory.

   Games like this used to serve as a turning point for the Patriots. Back in 2004, the Patriots headed to St. Louis to take on the vaunted Rams offense with two rookie cornerbacks in the starting lineup and Brown in the secondary. New England responded with a 40-22 win.

   The similarities between that game and Sunday night's win are eerie. Following the win over the Rams in '04, the Patriots won seven of their final eight games, finished 14-2 and won their second consecutive Super Bowl title.

   The victory over the Jets doesn't mean the Patriots are destined for another title, but it proves they can still improvise when necessary.

Carter sets single-game franchise sack record

   --Defensive end Andre Carter set a franchise record with 4.5 sacks Sunday in New York against the Jets. The previous best was four by Julius Adams (1977), Tony McGee (1978) and Mike Hawkins (1979). Carter's previous best was 2.5 sacks at Carolina in 2009 while he was playing with Washington. It was Carter's third game with two more sacks in 2011. He now has a team-leading nine sacks.

   --Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 329 yards, his 40th career 300-yard game and his sixth 300-yard game of the 2011 season. The most 300-yard games by Brady in a single season was eight in 2007. The NFL record for most 300-yard games in a season is 10 by Drew Brees (2008) and Rich Gannon (2002).

   --Wide receiver Wes Welker reached 500 receptions as a member of the Patriots in his 70th game with the team, becoming the fastest player to record 500 receptions with one team, surpassing Anquan Boldin (80 games with Arizona). Welker is the fourth player in NFL history with at least 500 catches in a five-year span.

   --S Patrick Chung missed Sunday's game with a foot injury. There's no timetable on his return; his status for this weekend will depend on his practice participation over the next few days.
   --CB Devin McCourty left Sunday's game during the first half due to a separated shoulder. There is no official word on his status, though he's expected to miss several weeks.
   --RT Sebastian Vollmer left Sunday's game momentarily due to a back injury, but he returned for the final stretch.
   --RG Brian Waters also suffered a minor left knee injury during the game, but he returned to the lineup and finished the game.
   --S James Ihedigbo left Sunday's game with a stinger, but, with the team depleted in the secondary, he returned soon after to finish the game

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