FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots’ defense was worn down by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. The offense was not moving the ball and all 11 players on the field had played just four days earlier.
But the entire defensive unit, and the secondary in particular, showed resolve as the game ticked on. The team gave up 318 yards total against the Jets, 83 of which came in that final period. But it didn’t matter how far New York marched down the field. The Patriots finished all four drives without allowing the Jets to score. They came away with an interception on three of the possessions.
The first pick came on a Geno Smith pass that got tipped by Kyle Arrington right into the waiting arms of Aqib Talib. Arrington called his tip a “dime,” or an assist if you’re not privy to basketball terminology. He wasn’t ready to take full credit for the turnover, though.
“I was just able to make a play on the ball, but Talib made the play by actually catching the ball,” Arrington said. “He was huge for us. I can’t say enough great things about him.”
The defensive backs gave up their fair share of yards to Smith — 214 to be exact, or 64 more than the team allowed to EJ Manuel in Week 1. But New England wasn’t able to come up with any interceptions in the 2013 debut performance.
Alfonzo Dennard came up with a pick on the third drive, after the Jets failed to move the ball on their second possession of the quarter. Smith’s throw was ill advised, but Arrington jumped the route impressively. He nearly had interceptions in Week 1 and earlier in the Jets game, but he pulled it in when it really mattered.
“Guys just made plays,” Devin McCourty said. “I mean, we talked about it all week leading up to the game. Our front seven, front four was in getting some pressure in there, and we just have to make it count and intercept the ball.”
Intercept the ball they did. The third pick could not have come at a better time. The offense had failed to score yet again and New York got the ball with 56 seconds on the clock, ready for a tie or win. Smith made another throw he might have wanted to have back. The pass was closer to Talib than any Jets receiver and the cornerback leaped up and grabbed it.
“From what I’m seeing right now, the defense is just playing great,” Duron Harmon said. “They’re playing great, always making plays when they have to make them. That’s what our coaching staff has talked about: Making plays when we have to make them. Day in and day out, they continue to do that. I’m a young guy, so I’m continuing to learn. I’m just learning from those guys. If this is how we’re going to play this year, this is how we’re going to play.”
The secondary has had an impressive start to the season. It’s been against two rookie quarterbacks, but both players have been impressive despite the solid play from the Patriots. It may not be so easy moving forward, especially in Week 4 against the Falcons, but they’re gaining confidence early, which is important.
Patriots defensive backs have been beaten down for their play on the field for years now. It’s time to praise them when they deserve it. New York could have come back in the fourth quarter. New England’s offense was practically begging them to. But the secondary bailed out Tom Brady and the offensive unit.