Patriots Will Need Better Play From Defense

The Patriots did what they had to on defense in order to pull out the win against the Ravens, but if they're going to make the playoffs, things need to change.

Who'd have thought heading into their first meeting as foes that Josh McDaniels' Broncos (4-0) would be the undefeated team in New England's Week 5 trip to Denver? The former Patriots offensive coordinator has danced past myriad offseason issues in the Rocky Mountains to get his tenure off to a surprisingly successful start.

But not everyone's a believer in the Broncos yet. It's the same type of story that's unfolding for the Patriots' defense in New England.

Always the ugly step-daughter to the Tom Brady-led offense, it's New England's defense that's actually playing the more consistent football through the first month of the season. Coming off last Sunday's impressive effort in the 27-21 win over the Ravens in Foxborough, Mass., the unit is starting to believe in itself, even if the rest of the world isn't quite sold.

Heck, even Patriots coach Bill Belichick described the defense's play against Joe Flacco and the Ravens as "good enough."

Not exactly a slogan worthy of running out and having T-shirts made up.

"Good enough? Hey, as long as we get the Ws, that's all that matters," safety James Sanders said. "If (Belichick) is describing us as "good enough," I guess that's good enough."

When the rubber met the road in the fourth quarter against the Ravens, the New England defense did, well, enough. The Patriots held strong on a pair of Baltimore fourth-down attempts in the fourth quarter.

For the second week in a row New England came away victorious thanks to success on fourth down. The offense converted to save the day twice against Atlanta. The defense held tight twice to beat the Ravens, stopping a balanced attack that ranked second in the NFL coming in.

And as we all know by now, this isn't the heyday of Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, Ty Law and Willie McGinest making the big stops at the biggest time. This is the new-look, new-name New England defense getting it done with guys like Mike Wright, Brandon McGowan, Gary Guyton. Brandon Meriweather, Leigh Bodden and others stepping up when called upon.

"Every game has been a building block for us," Tully Banta-Cain said. "We've been getting in different situations every week. But this week against a good offense in a critical, game-winning situation I think we can only build off of that. Hopefully those situations will come up later in the season and we can learn from them."

The upstart unit will get a chance to prove itself yet again against the similarly surprising Broncos this Sunday at Invesco Field.

Notes:

-- LB Jerod Mayo (knee) remained among New England's game inactives against Baltimore despite returning to the practice field on the Friday before the game and getting upgraded to doubtful on the injury report.
-- WR Joey Galloway was a healthy scratch against the Ravens, missing his first game of the season as he struggled to get acclimated to Tom Brady and the New England offense.
-- CB Terrence Wheatley led the remainder of New England's game inactives against Baltimore, joining DB Bret Lockett, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, OL Rich Ohrnberger, G Kendall Simmons and DL Ron Brace.
-- NT Vince Wilfork started and played the bulk of the day against Baltimore running attack, just a week after missing more than half the game against Atlanta with an ankle injury.
-- NT Terdell Sands saw action giving Wilfork a breather against the Ravens, making his Patriots debut just a week after the 6-foot-8, 355-pound giant signed with New England.
-- CB Leigh Bodden notched his first interception as a Patriot, New England's first of the year, when he picked off a Joe Flacco pass intended for Michael Clayton late in the second quarter.


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