East Rutheford, N.J. — This is the time of year for giving thanks, for counting your blessings and for appreciating the little things that make life so sweet. And this Thanksgiving provided Bill Belichick with blessings a plenty that should leave him counting for at least the next week.
“It’s certainly nice to come down here and be able to sweep the Jets this season,” Belichick said, slightly smirking as he reveled in the victory.
During what quickly became a Thanksgiving massacre at the Meadowlands on Thursday night, the Patriots gave Belichick more than enough to be thankful for. His offense was attacking. Special teams was cruising. And the rival Jets were trembling. What more could the proudest coach in the NFL honestly want?
Well, a defensive guru, or even genius, if you will, certainly wouldn’t mind a defensive effort worth some praise for once. And just as their coach desired, the Patriots’ defense delivered.
The Patriots’ defense took the matches and ignited the spark that the offense is usually left responsible with on Thursday. Starting with the relentless work of safety Steven Gregory, a Staten Island, N.Y. native, in front of his home crowd, the defense forced five turnovers — adding to their league-leading total of 31 — and held the Jets to a measly 19 points, which was much more embarrassing than it sounds.
The game sat still for much of the first quarter, seeing no points tick off the board as the divisional battle appeared headed for a defensive stalemate. Once the Patriots’ offense tasted the end zone, though, the defense couldn’t help but desire a taste of their own.
Running back Shane Vereen ran off a little screen pass for an 83-yard touchdown at the start of the second quarter to put New England up 14-0. And from there, the Patriots’ defense figured it was time to leave their impact on the game.
Gregory, who already had an interception in his pocket by the time the second quarter rolled around, decided that turnovers were to be his vice of choice at MetLife Stadium. He forced one fumble and recovered another pair the rest of the way, sparking an offensive outburst of epic proportions.
Following Vereen’s long touchdown, the Patriots rattled off two more touchdowns both sparked by turnovers forced by the defense. The stretch was a mere 52 seconds long but included three touchdowns and 21 of the Patriots then 28 points. A historic streak no doubt, and one that will be engrained in the minds of Patriots players, coaches and fans for some time.
“Of course it was [surprising],” Vereen said of the incredible stretch. “Yeah, it’s definitely a surprise. It gets the team going, and it keeps momentum on our side.”
While the players seemed stoked about the impressive achievement, Belichick stood firm in his normal mild-mannered demeanor not letting any sense of accomplishment impede his focus.
“It doesn’t take a lot to score a lot of points in this league quickly,” Belichick said. “Nothing surprises me in the NFL, that’s why it’s a great game.”
Speaking of great games. The Patriots scored in all three phases of the game on Thursday, putting up crooked numbers yet again and coming out of New York with a 49-19 romping of their AFC East rivals.
Belichick may not let on to his true sense of gratification, but this win was satisfying. The offense was thrilling, per usual, but the defensive effort was the biggest takeaway — pun very much intended — from this game.
If the aggressive defense that’s shown up these past two weeks is the same one that plans to show the rest of the season, then Belichick won’t just be satisfied. He’ll have something to truly be grateful for.