Much of the talk heading into Sunday's matchup with the Baltimore Ravens was the New England Patriots' new look offense. It was to be there first game without Randy Moss, and their first time lining up with Deion Branch back in Gillette Stadium. And while Branch and Tom Brady certainly picked up right where they left off, the key to Sunday's win was the defense, writes Pats Pulpit, particularly when containing the Ravens' Ray Rice.
... the defense did hold running back Ray Rice in check. Rice, who is a big play threat every time he touches the ball, didn't have a run longer than eight yards or a catch longer than 11. The Patriots played a lot of base 3-4, and kept the big plays in check all day. Even when Rice was able to catch the ball, there would always be a linebacker or two right on him to make the stop and avoid giving up the first down or big gain. [...]
Of course, the defense was most impressive in the fourth quarter and overtime. Between the two periods, the Patriots shut down the Ravens offense from scoring on five separate occasions, including three times in overtime.
Sunday was an especially key day for three defensive stars in particular: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Vince Wilfork.
In my mind, there were three key players who were dominant in the Patriots' front seven. Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Vince Wilfork all had terrific games in helping shut down the Ravens' running attack. Mayo looks even better than in 2008, and Brandon Spikes really stepped up and made some big plays in the fourth quarter and overtime. The two players combined for 32 tackles.
The Pats' defense may still have a long way to go, but as Pats Pulpit writes of Sunday's win: "Today, we saw that thought come to fruition as the defense came up big on several occasions today."