Patriots Defense Showing Improvement

The New England defense showed up to play on Sunday. The Jets offense has been decimated by injuries, but they still had Curtis Martin as an option. It turned out that Martin wasn't much of an option after all, as the Patriots shut down the Jets running game, limiting Martin to only 29 yards on the ground. Some of the team's defenders believe it's time to get more aggressive, and the results appear to support their case.

PHOTO: New England Patriots Richard Seymour applies pressure as New York Jets quarterback Brooks Bollinger gets off a pass during the third quarter of the Patriots 16-3 win at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2005. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Sunday at Gillette Stadium could have been mistaken for a family renion.

Former Patriots Ty Law and Curtis Martin were in the house, dressed in the New York Jets' green and white. Former linebacker Ted Johnson, who retired on the eve of training camp, was back on the field, in a suit, for a halftime ceremony honoring his 10-year career. And former great Gino Cappelletti, who is the team's radio analyst, was back in the news, passing the symbolic torch to kicker Adam Vinatieri, who displaced him as the franchise's all-time leading scorer.

The Patriots defense also got acquainted with its past, returning to the attacking style that had served it so well in its last two Super Bowl-winning seasons. Those Patriots generally played a 3-4, read-and-react defense, but they also imposed their will on opposing offenses, whether by utilizing creative schemes or simply by dominating the line of scrimmage.

That hadn't been the case through the first 11 games, but the Patriots (7-5) took a step in the right direction in their 16-3 win over an admittedly weakened Jets team that fell to 2-10.

"We did a better job of attacking this week," defensive end Richard Seymour said after the Patriots had allowed season lows in several categories, including points, net yards (164) and time of possession (21:50). "Anytime you're on defense, you want to attack, not react to what the other team is doing to you. I thought we had more aggressive calls. We were trying to go after these guys. I feel like defensively we came with a different attitude. We kind of had those guys back on their heels."

Asked if the players or the coaching staff had initiated the change, Seymour said, "I think (the coaches) understood what was going on. I think if you want different results, you have to do different things. We tried to change up because what we were doing wasn't working, period."

Coach Bill Belichick pointed out that it was easier to be aggressive because the Patriots consistently won first down. They entered the game allowing a league-worst average of 6.68 yards per first-down play, but the Jets averaged around 2 yards there.

"I think it was the normal game plan," said linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, who had one of the Patriots' two sacks, "but then you get yourself in a position where you're ahead and you feel like you can do different things with different defenses when you've got guys doing things correctly. You give yourself opportunities to do more blitzes or zones, whatever it is. I think we played better team defense. That's the difference right there."


--Although word had leaked out last week, Sports Illustrated on Monday officially announced that quarterback Tom Brady was selected as the magazine's 2005 Sportsman of the Year. Brady is the first NFL player so honored since Joe Montana in 1990. He is the second straight winner from Boston, following the 2004 World Series-winning Red Sox.

"I think it's certainly a well-deserved honor," coach Bill Belichick said. "For me, I would add maybe 'Person of the Year.' Because I think what Tom does goes beyond sports. Certainly that's a big part of it. But Tom as a person -- his makeup, his character and the way he carries himself on and off the field, in and out of football -- is exemplary in all phases.

"He's certainly had a lot of accomplishments in football and on the field, and (the SI honor) is well-deserved for all of those. But I think his excellence extends well beyond that. I hope that the award is in part reflective of that."

--The Patriots tied their season low in points against the Jets, but the offense controlled the clock and late in the first quarter did a good job of reversing field position. After a Jets punt was downed at the New England 1, the Patriots picked up three first downs to dig themselves out of the hole. When the Jets got the ball back on a punt, they had to start from their own 26.

The key plays in the drive were consecutive completions of 10 yards to Troy Brown, 12 yards to Deion Branch and 18 yards to Brown. The 10-yarder came on a third-and-4 from the Pats 7. After failing to convert their first two third-down opportunities, the Patriots were 8-for-14 the rest of the game, starting with Brown's catch.

"To be able to take the ball out of our own end and at least get a little bit of field position and punt it out, sometimes those are the biggest series offensively," Belichick said. "Not that they necessarily result in points, which they didn't. But you just create some field position and give your defense a chance and not put them out there on (your own) 35-yard line. I thought that was very important."

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