FOXBOROUGH -- In mathematics, zero is considered neither positive nor negative.
In football, zero can be both, and you don't have to be Bernoulli to deduce when.
Allowing zero points is a very positive thing for a defense. Making zero tackles is a very negative thing for a player.
But in the Patriots' ''Bizarro World," the latter isn't all that bad, if you are one of the best defensive linemen in the league.
According to the statistician at last Sunday's game against the Jets, Richard Seymour had zero tackles.
A day later, the Patriots' coaching staff examined the game tape and deduced Seymour did, indeed, assist on one tackle.
It probably came in the first quarter, when Curtis Martin looked to run into a hole that didn't exist because tackle Adrian Jones couldn't move Seymour. Martin cut back and ran into Ty Warren and Willie McGinest, with Seymour getting a small piece of the no-gainer.
Or it could have been in the second quarter, when Martin wanted to go left, saw Seymour at the line of scrimmage, and turned it inside for a 3-yard gain, with Seymour getting a glove on him as Vince Wilfork made the stop.
Is that it for a full day's work for the Patriots' top defensive player? Hardly. Seymour was as busy as any player on the defense.
The tackle numbers lie. Check out some other numbers, said Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
''What did they run for?" Belichick asked.
That would be 41 yards, Coach, the fewest the Patriots have allowed since Sept. 15, 2002, when they held the Jets to 32 yards. (Coincidentally, Seymour had but one tackle in that contest, as well.)
''What did the back run for?" Belichick asked.
Martin ran the ball 15 times for 29 yards.
''If the back is gaining 2, 3 yards an attempt, then that means really, probably all seven guys on the front . . . are playing pretty good, because if any one of them isn't, Curtis is going to find [the hole]," Belichick said.
Seymour has a similar take, noting that in the Patriots' 3-4 two-gap scheme, often his job is to hold his own up front to free up the linebackers.
Against the Jets, Seymour had a much better day than the statistics revealed.
Several times, Seymour was double-teamed by Jones and guard Jonathan Goodwin. He was chipped by tight end Joel Dreessen. On other plays, it appeared his assignment was to maintain integrity at the line of scrimmage when teammates blitzed Brooks Bollinger.
A few times, Seymour made Bollinger throw before he wanted to, and on at least three occasions, he manhandled his blocker to the point where Bollinger was nearly knocked down by his own lineman. None of those throws was completed. Jones looked like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk on one third-quarter play, as Seymour pushed him into the backfield.
Seymour also tipped a throw, nearly leading to an interception. He was held once -- though no call was made -- on what might have been a sack.
And on Ellis Hobbs's interception, the clinching pick in the fourth quarter, Seymour had straight-line pressure on Bollinger, who threw the ball up for grabs to avoid being smashed.
A good day's work with little to show for it . . . well, little personal glory. The Patriots won, 16-3.
''That's the nature of the beast, that's what we're dealing with," Seymour said. ''It's tough to go out and get your personal statistics or rewards, but for the overall of what we're trying to do, and that's to win, you have to sacrifice.
''If I feel like I played well when I look at the film, that may be fine for me, because I believe I'm tough on myself as far as critiquing myself. A lot of players need to be patted on the back, 'Good job this, and good job that.' I'm not a guy who needs someone to say, 'Hey, you did a good job.'
''I thought it was a solid performance.
''You have to say, 'What do I want? Do I want my numbers, or do I want the betterment of the team?' As long as the coaching staff understands this is what they're asking me to do, then that's what I do."
And is the staff pleased with Seymour's effort against the Jets?
''I haven't heard any complaints," Seymour said with a smile.
The Patriots have had their three best games against the run in the last four weeks. Seymour returned to the lineup from a knee injury four weeks ago, but says he still lacks the explosiveness he had prior to the injury, but he feels like he is getting better each week.
''Our run defense is just better from a team standpoint," Belichick said. ''It's always good to have Richard back in there -- I don't think he's taking anything away from it -- but I think as a team we're reading the plays better. We're playing better across the board."
Belichick won't say it, but it is easier for everyone else to play better with offensive lines concerned about keeping Seymour from dominating. It is the rare play that Seymour is pushed off the point of attack, opening a soft spot in the defense.
As well as he thinks Seymour played, Belichick laughed at the suggestion that a good game with zero tackles is a regular occurrence.
''Yeah, it's not all about stats, but, let me be clear here: Any defensive player is allowed to tackle the guy with the ball," he said. ''There's no restriction on that. When they have it, we're allowed to get 'em.
''It doesn't make any difference if they play safety, nose, or whatever. They're allowed to tackle the guy with the ball."
Jerome Solomon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org