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Defense creating turnovers, over and over and over

Big plays have become the norm for New England's improving unit.

While the Patriots offense hasn't coughed up the football in five straight games, New England's maturing defense is creating turnovers at a torrid clip.

Interceptions, fumble recoveries, even fourth-down stops have given confidence to this young group of players.

Rookie cornerback Devin McCourtyleads the charge with his six INTs, and though he might be out of action this week with a rib injury incurred against the Bears (while forcing a fumble, no less), the play-making attitude is becoming contagious among his teammates.

"Oh, definitely. Yeah. Turnovers, they happen in bunches. We just have to keep that rolling," observed linebacker Rob Ninkovich, "especially with these cold-weather games, ball security is always an issue."

It's more than just the weather and the time of year, though, that's contributing to New England's success in the turnover department. But what's been the formula?

"As a defense, you're always looking to create turnovers. We're not doing anything special," safety Jarrad Pageinsisted. "We're not going outside the defense to try to make plays. We just focus on getting opportunities to intercept the ball, try to strip the ball.

"It seems like the reason we're getting all these [turnovers] is we're being consistent and doing what we're supposed to do, being where we're supposed to be."

"We preach it every day in practice," nose tackle and co-captain Vince Wilforkemphasized. "Can't get enough of practice. The more you do it in practice, the more plays you make in practice, the more consistent you are in practice, you have a good chance of executing on game days.

"I love giving Tom Bradya short field. "Best quarterback in the game. Our job is to keep him in those situations."

It's become so commonplace lately for the Patriots defense to come up with a big play in a crucial situation that the players have almost come to expect it.

"Yeah, definitely. As the season has gone on," added Ninkovich, "I think we've matured and we're still trying to improve in certain areas."

"To be honest, we don't even talk about how many it's been," Page asserted. "You might think I'm lying, but I'm dead serious. We don't talk about it at all. Each week is like a brand new week. We don't even think about what we did before … the ball is finding us right now."

"We're just playing really well right now," echoed Ninkovich. "We're all running to the ball. If everyone's getting to the ball, things are going to happen."

Things could happen again this weekend against the Green Bay Packers, particularly if backup QB Matt Flynngets the call in place of concussed starter Aaron Rodgers. There isn't much NFL videotape of the third-year veteran from LSU, which is somewhat of a challenge for New England's defenders to prepare for both Flynn and Rodgers, just in case.

"He's a pretty good quarterback. He's mobile. Throws a pretty good ball," Page said of Flynn, after studying what little tape he could find.

"Rodgers, you guys know, is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. You just have to get ready for both of them. It's not too difficult. Their styles are not too different. We're preparing for Green Bay [as a team], not necessarily who's going to line up at quarterback."

Ninkovich offered a similar assessment.

"He's got the ability to throw the ball anywhere on the field, and to run. So, you just look at some tape that he's been in … he can throw the ball pretty well. He's got a good arm. You have to see what kind of stuff he was doing in the preseason and the games he's played in."

Thu 12/16 Practice Notebook

For news and notes from Thursday's practice, including updates on Brady and McCourty, please visit the PFW Blog.

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