FOXBOROUGH (AP) — Something important was missing from the New England Patriots defense besides some of its best players.
The Patriots’ injury-filled defense ended a two-game takeaway drought by grabbing four in a surprising 41-7 rout of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
“We really put a lot of emphasis into it (last) week,” coach Bill Belichick said yesterday. “We have to continue to do that.”
The defense had at least one turnover in 36 consecutive regular-season games until that streak ended in the 10th game this season, a 24-20 loss at Carolina.
It produced four the next week in a 34-31 overtime win over Denver. In the next three games, though, it had only one, although the Patriots got another on special teams after a fumbled snap by Miami on a field goal attempt in a 24-20 loss to the Dolphins.
But the defense was back in form a week later in Baltimore.
The Patriots (11-4) clinched their fifth straight AFC East title earlier in the day when Miami lost to Buffalo.
Then they tied their season high of four takeaways.
“There’s no statistic that correlates more to winning than turnovers,” Belichick said.
Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan intercepted two of Joe Flacco’s passes, backup safety Tavon Wilson returned Tyrod Taylor’s throw 74 yards for a touchdown and end Chandler Jones recovered a fumble in the end zone.
“We’ve been working on (turnovers) all week. They gave us some opportunities and we took advantage of them,” Wilson said. “Every time you get the ball on defense, you’re looking to return it for a touchdown.”
Wilson is just the latest substitute to contribute. The Patriots have needed plenty of them.
Their injured reserve list includes some of their best defensive players. One starting tackle, Vince Wilfork, went there after the fourth game. The other, Tommy Kelly, played only five games before joining him, and linebacker Jerod Mayo went on the list after the sixth game.