FOXBORO, Mass. • As explosive as New England’s offense was during its second-half surge against Buffalo on Sunday, the Patriots defense might have been the ringleader for the quick turnaround. The Denver Broncos have reason for concern on both sides of the ball this Sunday.
While quarterback Tom Brady was busy orchestrating another patented comeback, leading the offense to 580 total yards of offense and 45 second-half points, New England’s defense actually ignited the charge, forcing six turnovers in the Patriots’ 52-28 victory.
New England entered the game getting just five turnovers through three games.
“We emphasize it every week. We’ve got our hands on some balls this year — some we’ve turned over, some we haven’t. And we’ve forced a few fumbles — sometimes we’ve recovered them, sometimes we haven’t. But those things kind of went right for us,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday. “I think if you just keep pressuring the ball, hopefully sooner or later, you’ll get it out and hopefully sooner or later, some of those will come to you.”
They arrived in bunches Sunday. As did the yards and touchdowns.
Six turnovers for the defense, though? That was a shocker. Special-teamer Matthew Slater, in fact, couldn’t recall the last time the Patriots defense bombarded an opponent so fiercely.
“Those guys did a great job of taking advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves — getting balls out and then when they were out, they got on them,” Slater said. “Everybody was making plays.”
Slater cited the balance between veteran leadership and youth as the primary reason for the drastically different performance.
“They’re playing lights out. They’ve played well for us all year,” he said. ”
Right in the middle of that group is third-year cornerback Devin McCourty, who intercepted two passes Sunday and keyed a unit that recorded three sacks in helping the Patriots avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2002.
“It helped us win the game,” McCourty said.
Third-year linebacker Brandon Spikes played a pivotal part, too, forcing two fumbles, including a game-changer late in the second quarter near the Patriots’ own goal line. Following a fumble by Welker deep in Patriots’ territory, Buffalo was on the cusp of entering the locker room with a comfortable 21-7 lead before Spikes delivered a crushing blow on running back C.J. Spiller, jarring the ball loose for Wilfork to pounce on at the New England 4.
The defense clamped down, forcing three turnovers in the fourth quarter while allowing the Bills to advance the ball past the 50 once in the final seven possessions.
“They’re giving us the ball in great field position. That’s huge for us,” Slater said.
Duplicating that effort against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will be an even taller task.
“You really got to put the time in,” McCourty said.
It all started Monday.