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Patriots stopped short

Defense needs to do better, says Pees

Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees (right) and coach Bill Belichick were happy to have Jerod Mayo back in Denver. Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees (right) and coach Bill Belichick were happy to have Jerod Mayo back in Denver. (Jim Davis/File/Globe Staff
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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / October 14, 2009

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For Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Sunday’s 20-17 loss to Denver on the chilly sod at Invesco Field was every bit as hideous as the Broncos’ mustard-and-brown throwback jerseys and striped socks. There were plays there to be made, but his unit did not make them.

“We’ve got to get better than what we were playing against the Broncos,’’ Pees said yesterday. “We’ve got to play better and we’ve got to coach better and just got to do a lot of things better. We had the opportunity to make some plays which really could’ve made a big difference in the game, but we just fell short.’’

Clearly, one area the defense will have to address before the Patriots host the winless Titans Sunday is third-down efficiency. The Patriots entered the game ranked 23d in the league on third-down defense, then allowed the Broncos to convert 43 percent of their attempts (6 of 14).

It was little wonder Denver managed to cobble together touchdown drives of 90 and 98 yards, both of which ended with 11-yard passes from Kyle Orton to Brandon Marshall, the second tying the game, 17-17, with 5:21 left.

“We’ve got to get off the field a little better on third down,’’ Pees said. “We’ve been doing OK on that, but we didn’t do well enough.

“We had some opportunities on a couple of tipped balls that we’ve got to come up with in those situations, and we certainly can’t let people drive the length of the field on us. Both [touchdown drives] were aided by some penalties which, again, was something we were doing better earlier in the year and we’ve got to get back to that.’’

Orton, who completed 35 of a career-high 48 attempts for 330 yards, orchestrated the scoring marches with a short, controlled passing game that seemed to keep the Patriots on their heels.

“We needed to change up the coverage and stuff on them, even maybe the front sometimes,’’ Pees said. “You’ve just got to keep changing things up and you can’t sit in the same things. I’m not saying that we did, it’s just that we came up short on a couple of those plays that we’ve got to make. It doesn’t matter if we’re in man coverage or zone coverage.

“Every coverage can be a good coverage or every coverage can be a bad coverage. There’s certain strengths and certain weaknesses to every coverage, and you hope you don’t stay in anything long enough so that anybody kind of figures that out.

“At the same time, we’ve just got to do a better job of playing the plays and I’ve got to do a better job maybe of changing it up even more than what I did to keep them more off balance.’’

Broncos first-year coach Josh McDaniels, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, put New England on the defensive when he opened the game in a Wildcat formation - or Wild Horses, as they like to call it in Denver.

“I thought they did a nice job with the Wildcat - or whatever - there at the beginning,’’ Pees said. “They were doing it a little different than what other people had.’’

No doubt cognizant of the fact that the Patriots had struggled to stop Miami’s Wildcat in a 38-13 loss to the Dolphins last Sept. 21, the Broncos ran the formation on three of their first six plays and gained 22 yards.

“Twelve of it was on the first play when we missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage,’’ Pees said. “That was a good little touch by Josh to try and get us to check and stay in the check.

“But again, I don’t think, in the big scheme of things, that was a deciding factor. We just didn’t play it well enough. We need to play them better.’’

Pees was encouraged by the return of middle linebacker Jerod Mayo, who had been inactive for three games after injuring his knee in the first quarter of the season opener against the Bills.

“Overall, I guess I would say I’m pleased from the standpoint that we had him back out there and he got to play and it’s always [good] any time you come back after you’ve been off for a few weeks,’’ Pees said.

“He did some good things, and some things he’ll improve on.

“It’s just the more you play, the better you feel and the more you’ll get back into the groove of the whole defense and the package and everything we’re doing. It was great to see him back out there, that’s for sure.’’

Said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, “It’s great to have Jerod back. He practiced a little bit last week, toward the end of the week. He felt good and played in the game, so hopefully we’ll be able to build on that this week.

“We’d like to have all of our guys out there - certainly Jerod, our defensive captain. He’s done a good job for us and hopefully he’ll be able to go this week, too.’’

Mayo, who made six tackles, didn’t seem to miss a beat, as he made a jarring hit in the first quarter on Knowshon Moreno, causing a fumble that Brandon McGowan recovered. That led to Stephen Gostkowski’s career-long 53-yard field goal, giving the Patriots a 10-0 lead.

“Well, I don’t know if you can say he hadn’t missed a beat, but it was certainly a nice play and a big hit and he did a nice job,’’ Pees said. “It’s like anything else, we all missed a beat at some point in time in that game - me included.’’

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