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Aggressive defense pulls out the stops

FOXBOROUGH -- Impressive defensive numbers were in the books -- season-lows for total yards (164), passing yards (123), rushing yards (41), and points (3) -- but Willie McGinest was quick to put them in perspective.

''It was another step forward," said the veteran Patriots linebacker, ''but I wouldn't give us any awards for one performance against the Jets."

Throughout the Patriots' locker room, McGinest's sentiments were echoed as players quietly dressed in the aftermath of a ho-hum, 16-3 win over overmatched New York. No backslapping, no high-fiving, no chest-thumping.

''Everyone did their jobs, and it showed," said Vince Wilfork, who helped plug the middle and keep the Jets to just a measley 2.6 average on their 16 rushes.

Maligned and criticized for the way opposing teams had moved the ball in the first 11 games, Patriots defenders haven't had many moments of pleasure, but the Jets provided them a perfect opportunity to turn things around. The fact that they took advantage was what pleased the Patriots the most.

''After a poor performance last week it was good to get a win," said Richard Seymour. ''Obviously, what we were doing wasn't working. Something had to change."

What changed, it seems, was a commitment to a more aggressive style. Did that mean there was a stated goal to blitz a lot more? Rosevelt Colvin said that defensive coordinator Eric Mangini and coach Bill Belichick would be the ones to answer that, ''but I felt like I was rushing a lot."

On the Jets' third possession, early in the second quarter, it was third and 9 when New York quarterback Brooks Bollinger got rocked by Colvin, one of two sacks recorded by the Patriots. ''Everyone had someone to block and they allowed me to go free," said Colvin, whose consistent play has been one of the few bright spots on defense.

''He's had a good year all year. He's built on last year," said Belichick.

That play by Colvin forced the Jets to punt and what followed was a 14-play drive that covered 77 yards and produced the first points of the day, a field goal by Adam Vinatieri. More importantly, the drive took 8 minutes 9 seconds and Seymour & Co. appreciated the long rest because they had vowed to play with more ferocity and being fresher was a key.

''I felt like the game plan was more attack and as a defensive player, you want to attack rather than react," said Seymour. ''I felt like in the past we were just reacting. The calls were a little more aggressive and I felt that gave us the attitude to go out and play a little more aggressive."

Clearly, such a style produced great results because Bollinger was never allowed to stand in the pocket and look for his receivers. Jarvis Green had New England's other sack; Seymour, Mike Vrabel, and Ellis Hobbs all were credited with getting their hands on Bollinger's passes behind the line of scrimmage; and Hobbs had the only interception of the game. Bollinger (15 of 37, 135 yards) looked rattled and unsure, a weakness the Patriots felt they could exploit, but none of it could have happened had New England not taken care of their main responsibility.

''It all started with stopping Curtis [Martin]," said McGinest, who was in Bollinger's face all day and was cited for roughing the passer on one call. ''He's the heart of that offense."

Martin picked up just 29 yards on 15 carries and looked like a guy whose team has now lost seven straight and fallen to 2-10. ''It's just hard," said Martin. ''We're having a hard time and we're not getting it done."

Funny, but Patriot defenders were feeling similarly after weeks in which they had been pushed around and yielded huge yardage against the Chiefs, Colts, Chargers, Panthers, and even the lowly Bills, Dolphins, and Saints. It hardly made them feel good, but finally there seemed to be a recharged focus. ''We decided to take the fight to them," sad Seymour.

If there was a negative to all of it, Seymour said it was the crowd reaction. Or, more accurately, the crowd's non-reaction.

''I think [the crowd] got louder over that than I've ever heard them," said Seymour, referring to a series of promotional shots on the large end-zone screen of Victoria's Secret supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who was on hand for a give-away. ''That was disappointing. They don't know when to cheer. Maybe they're spoiled because we've been winning."

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