FOXBOROUGH — Rob Ninkovich went back to giving it the old college try on Sunday against the Broncos. And he reaped the rewards.
“I just feel like the first couple of weeks, I took it personally some of the things that were going around about my style and how I was playing,” the Patriots linebacker said after Sunday’s 31-21 victory over Denver. “Obviously that wasn’t how I wanted my play to be evaluated. I kind of went back and, when I was playing defensive end in college, and I was kind of like ‘high motor, keep going, never stop’, not saying that I wasn’t doing that early on, I just think that maybe I was thinking too much as far as run-pass, instead of just beating the guy in front of me.”
Ninkovich used the high-motor attack to sack Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, causing a fumble, during a critical Denver drive in the third quarter.
“I was trying to set up my moves a little bit early,” Ninkovich said. “I know those guys out there are good and they’re big and you have to give it to [Peyton] Manning, he’s got great pocket presence so the first couple drives I was trying to just bull-rush, trying to collapse the pocket a little bit. Then on that one rush i just changed it up and swiped and got on the field and the ball was there so we just got it out.”
After the Broncos cut the Patriots’ lead to 31-21 in the fourth quarter and were driving, Ninkovich stepped up to cause a big turnover again when he stripped the ball away from Broncos running back Willis McGahee at the Patriots 11-yard line.
“The fumble at the end of the game on the draw play I just saw the running back step inside so I just followed him and saw the ball on his right hand and tried to throw a hook at it,” Ninkovich said.
Ninkovich never lost his confidence even though he didn’t have a great start to the season.
“I knew I was capable of making some big plays and being a guy that you can count on so the first couple of weeks I didn’t feel I was playing my style and the way I would like to play,” Ninkovich said. “So I felt the last couple of weeks I’m doing some things that I’ve been trying to change.”