This gang loves to protect turf
FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots' defense fired a complete-game shutout against Miami yesterday. It was the second time in four games the unit has delivered such a performance, blanking Dallas, also by a 12-0 score, Nov. 16.
It is yet another feather in the cap of defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who keeps making a strong case that he deserves a head coaching position in the NFL.
As usual, the shutout meant little to the players, who have kept their eyes on the big picture.
"All we care about in here is the W's," said one of the game's stars, Tedy Bruschi, whose 5-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter sealed the victory. "We don't care if we win, 12-11, or 12-10 as long as we win. A shutout is nice, but the win is the most important thing. We've got good players, Ted [Washington] and [Richard] Seymour up front, our entire D-line and our D-backs are playing very well. Our coaches are doing a good job putting us in good situations."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick had this take on the defensive effort:
"We played well on third down," he said. "And we did a decent job on the running game. Overall, the coverage on the receivers was pretty tight. It gave our rush a chance to get there. At times we had a good rush and it probably disrupted the timing of the throw a little bit. But it is a team defense. It is not one guy. It's not a one-man band. We use a lot of different people. We change the roles from time to time from week to week and they are a very adaptable group and very unselfish. I don't think they really care who makes the plays as long as we make it."
The defense held Ricky Williams to 68 yards. The Dolphins were held to a 22 percent efficiency rating on third down. Miami only managed 134 net yards. Quarterback Jay Fiedler had a rating of 25.1, was sacked five times, and completed only 13 of 31 passes. That is a complete-game shutout.
The Patriots have not allowed a touchdown at Gillette Stadium since Oct. 5, a span of four games. The Giants (Oct. 12), Browns (Oct. 26), Cowboys (Nov. 16), and Dolphins never got to the end zone. The last touchdown at Gillette was Steve McNair's 1-yard run with 4:40 remaining in the Patriots' 38-30 win over the Titans Oct. 5.
Fiedler was free-flowing with kudos for the Patriots defense.
"Anytime you get shut out you have to take some of the responsibility," Fiedler said, "but we're talking about one of the best defenses in the league. We just made too mistakes against a team with a great defense and when you do that, you're not going to win the game."
Miami coach Dave Wannstedt didn't seem to think the Patriots threw anything new at his club yesterday. He thought New England played well in its 3-4 defense, put eight men in the box frequently, and blitzed safety Rodney Harrison. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, nothing the Dolphins didn't expect. It's just that Miami lost the battle on the front line. So ferocious were Seymour, Washington, Bobby Hamilton, Willie McGinest, and the rest of the defense, that they forced mistakes by the offensive line. None bigger than guard Todd Wade jumping offside on a third-and-1 just before a quarterback sneak. It might have been Wade's fault, but the need to get leverage on the onrushing line caused Wade to jump and ultimate kill a third-quarter drive.
Wannstedt said the Patriots pass rush was effective at causing Fiedler to throw some bad balls.
"Jay was hit a few times early and he probably got rid of a few balls sooner than he wanted to get rid of them," Wannstedt said.
While Wannstedt gave the Patriots credit, he thought his team's mistakes and inept offense were as much to blame for the shutout.
Whether it was the Patriots dominance or the Dolphins incompetence, the Patriots came away with another "W" and another goose egg.
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