Patriots coach Bill Belichick lauded the instinctive play of defensive end Rob Ninkovich who forced a Mark Sanchez fumble in the pocket and made a fumble recovery to put the icing on a 29-26 overtime victory over the New York Jets Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s something we talk about and work on each week,” Belichick said during a his weekly teleconference with reporters, which was moved up one day to Monday in light of the team’s short week of preparation before its trip to London for this week’s game against the St. Louis Rams.
“We talk to the players and their awareness about not only making a hit on the quarterback, but having an awareness for the ball,” Belichick said. “We’ve seen Rob do that several times already this year. We saw it in the Buffalo game. We saw it in the Denver game and we sat in the Jets game.
“It’s not just sacking the quarterback, but as you go to tackle them, you have an awareness of where the ball is as you make the tackle,” Belichick continued. “As a quarterback, when you grip the ball, you don’t really have it secured like a running back does when he covers the nose of the ball … and has it between his rib cage, his elbow and the nose of the ball. It’s much harder to dislodge when it’s there than when it’s in the quarterback’s hand in his throwing grip.
“Rob has done it numerous occassions as well as last year and he has a good feel for that. It’s just an instinctive play that we coach and we talk about, but every play is different and it’s really every player’s awareness. In this case, it was Rob’s awareness that made it a game-changing play.”