FOXBOROUGH – Patriots coach Bill Belichick was pleased with his defense on Sunday after holding the Buccaneers to only three points, especially after a good week of practice.
It was the first time the Patriots held an opponent to three points or fewer in September since 1997, with the Patriots coming away victorious, 23-3, against visiting Tampa Bay.
It helped that Buccaneers stars Doug Martin (20 carries, 88 yards) and Vincent Jackson (3 receptions, 34 yards) were bottled up. Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib was tasked with locking Jackson down, following the burly receiver around until he left the game with a rib injury. He intercepted a Josh Freeman pass intended for Jackson in the second quarter that helped set up one of Stephen Gostkowski's three field goals, proving to be more than competitive with one of the league's elite wide receivers.
"Speed and [his] size put together, that's a tough combination," Talib said of Jackson. "I was ready for it man, I was ready for it. He went down early. I don't know what happened to him. But I hope he's all right. But I was looking forward to that challenge."
Belichick was more flattering of them both.
"He’s a heck of a player," Belichick said of Jackson. "He made a big catch there on us early. I’m sure they missed him when he went out but I thought Aqib [Talib] did a good job competing against him and played him tough at the line of scrimmage. Jackson made a couple, but Talib made a couple. It was a good, competitive matchup.
"He’s definitely a guy, obviously him and [Doug] Martin, are two guys you have to stop on this football team," Belichick continued. "Being able to keep him out of the end zone and just limit his catches was huge for us. But Aqib did a great job, he worked hard, had a good week of preparation, he had a real good week of practice and it showed up in the game. He made that play in practice – the interception – a couple times, just the way it turned out in the game. It’s just a good example of practicing well leads to the game performance."
The Patriots defense has started the year strong, allowing the fewest points through their first three games of the season (34) since 1979.
For Talib, who has three interceptions this season and has four forced turnovers, the win was probably even sweeter because it was against his old team, although he wouldn't admit to as much.
"Naw, not at all," he said. "A win is a win.That's how you want to start. You want to start 3-0.
"We're going to be right back at work tomorrow."