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Sports

November 5, 2013

Patriots' defense needs work after 55-31 win

FOXBOROUGH — Scoring 55 points is a sure sign that Tom Brady and the New England offense are rolling again.

Allowing 31 points shows that the injury-battered defense needs to get better.

“It was good to put some points on the board and be more efficient offensively than what we’ve been the last couple weeks,” coach Bill Belichick said yesterday. “But defensively, we gave up 31 points and most weeks that won’t get it done. There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement on that side of the ball.”

So after Sunday’s 55-31 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England’s bye week comes at a good time; the next game is Nov. 18 at Carolina.

The Patriots (7-2) led the AFC East by two games despite an ever-changing cast on defense. Three of their best starters, tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and linebacker Jerod Mayo, are on season-ending injured reserve.

Their best cornerback, Aqib Talib, missed the last three games with a hip injury. On Sunday, two other defensive starters were knocked out: end Rob Ninkovich with a foot injury and safety Steve Gregory with a thumb injury. At least they have extra time to recover.

“We’re going to take a good look at everything we’re doing and areas that we need to improve on,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “It’s really important for us to have this time to reflect a little bit.”

Rookie defensive tackles Chris Jones and Joe Vellano can use the time to rest from their unexpected heavy workload as replacements for Wilfork, a five-time Pro Bowler, and Kelly, in his first year with the Patriots after nine with the Oakland Raiders.

Veteran linemen Andre Carter and Isaac Sopoaga can immerse themselves in the playbook. Carter, who spent the 2011 season with the Patriots, was re-signed and played in the past two games. Sopoaga, in his 10th season, was obtained in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles last week and started at defensive tackle Sunday to provide run defense that had suffered without Wilfork and Kelly.

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