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Defense excelling in pressure situations

PEPPER JOHNSON He’s not a stats guy PEPPER JOHNSON He’s not a stats guy
By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / October 5, 2011

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There aren’t many statistics that present the Patriots defense in a positive light. That’s not important to defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.

When it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback, Johnson said, his group is doing what is being asked. The Patriots have six sacks this season, which ranks near the bottom of the league, but the quantity isn’t important to Johnson.

“I’m a little more than satisfied,’’ Johnson said. “I’m quite sure the question has spawned from stats and not really detail of watching the game.

“I’m watching our guys do what we’re asking them to do. We’re actually hitting the quarterback. We’re just not coming up with the sacks.

“I’m not much of a stat person. I just know how we have been affecting some throws. We’ve been getting as much pressure as we possibly can from the situations that we are in.’’

Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has missed the last two weeks with a back injury, and it remains to be seen whether he will be available this week. But overall, Johnson said, his group of veteran defensive linemen is finding ways to make an impact.

“We’re getting a lot of good plays and a lot of productive plays from some guys that are playing some techniques and are doing some things that they’re not normally used to doing or accustomed to doing,’’ Johnson said.

“It’s kind of hard teaching some old dogs new tricks, but we have some guys that are buying into the system and working at it, working hard to try to do some of the things that we ask them to do.’’

The facts on Plax When receiver Plaxico Burress became available this year, there were a few interested teams. Count the Patriots among them.

Belichick said the Patriots looked at Burress, just as they evaluate all available players. The Jets eventually signed Burress, and this season he has 10 catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns.

In preparing for Burress this week, Belichick said he has plenty of film to work with.

“We did look at him in the offseason just because of his general availability, as we normally do - look at all the players that are not connected with a team,’’ Belichick said. “He hasn’t played in a while until this year, and I think there’s plenty to go off of this year. He played quite a bit in preseason.

“Strong, physical guy, can go up and get the ball. Even if he’s covered, he’s really not covered because he’s capable of going up and taking the ball away from the defender. Good down the field, good on the catch-and-runs, hard guy to tackle.’’

Play it again Looking at film from last season’s playoff loss to the Jets may be a necessity for preparation, but that is all the Patriots should take from the game, according to cornerback Devin McCourty. “The outcome and the emotions has nothing to do with now,’’ said McCourty. “You’re just watching it for scheme and all that stuff.’’ . . . McCourty, safety Josh Barrett, and safety Ross Ventrone read to preschoolers at the Foxborough YMCA yesterday as part of the team’s campaign to celebrate volunteerism . . . Barrett was on injured reserve with a shoulder injury last season, but he doesn’t need to be prepped about the Patriots-Jets rivalry. “It’s an important game and an important week,’’ Barrett said. “We’re tied for first place in our division and we’re at home. It’s an important week and a huge game.’’ . . . Opposing quarterbacks haven’t had much success this season launching passes in the direction of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. Through four games, he has allowed three receptions, according to “He is a really good player,’’ said offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. “He’s a guy that’s playing at a very high level and has been at a high level.’’

The call stands Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie isn’t changing his tune from the comments he made last season about Tom Brady in the days before the teams battled in the playoffs. After the Jets lost to the Ravens Sunday, Cromartie told Newsday he meant what he said when he made a range of comments that challenged Brady to “be a professional’’ and “let your play speak for itself.’’ Cromartie’s comments at the time were in reaction to what he viewed as Brady being disrespectful after throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter of New England’s 45-3 win in December. “What I said last year, I meant it,’’ Cromartie said. “I’m not going to take back anything. I’m definitely looking forward to this rivalry game. I still have the same feelings. Feelings don’t change. Whatever I said last year is not going to change.’’ . . . Ventrone has returned to the practice squad, the team announced yesterday. Ventrone was cut from the 53-man roster Saturday to make room for offensive lineman Thomas Welch, who was signed off the practice squad.

Monique Walker can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @monwalker.

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