The Patriots had a new starter on defense this week, as veteran linebacker Mack Wilson made his debut on the opening snap after playing 21 total snaps in Week 1 against Miami. An offseason addition via trade with the Browns, Wilson's speed and athleticism have been on display since the offseason, as he's provided a needed jolt on the second level of the defense and given Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo with a new option to help configure their gameplan approaches.
"I really didn't know, just going into this week, I just was working hard, took advantage of my opportunities in practice," said Wilson of getting the starting nod. "When we got to the game, like '30 and eight can start us off,' and that's when I was I was excited, obviously to go out there and kind of put some things together, go out there and try to make plays... and play for my teammates."
Wilson made an immediate impact from his linebacker spot, with a first-quarter deflected pass that was intercepted by teammate Jalen Mills. The takeaway was New England's first of the season and was a needed one that put a stop to a Pittsburgh drive that was picking up momentum as they passed midfield.
Wilson went into detail about the play and how it unfolded from his view.
"I feel like they were driving the ball pretty well," recalled Wilson, correctly observing that the Steelers had just picked up their third first down of the drive. "It was a play where it was play action. And I kind of read the o-linemen and saw they weren't climbing up to the second level. And I kind of just sat there for a minute. And then that's when I saw Trubisky. He dropped back with the ball and as I was dropping into my zone on the field, I was just looking at his eyes and he was kind of looking at me. But I'm like, do I just keep drifting back? Or do I kind of like, turn inside so I kind of felt the receiver behind me a little bit. So I got to turning inside. And then that's when he threw the ball. And you know, obviously, I tried to make a play on it, didn't come down with it, but Mills came down with it. I feel like it was a great play. We got to turnover."
This was the kind of play the Patriots defense needed more of coming into 2022, with a good read and quick reaction making the difference between a potential scoring drive and a game-changing play that swung the momentum back to New England. Through two games, the defense has been stout, aggressive and physical, bearing all the usual characteristics of a Patriots defense even if some of the most well-known faces are no longer around.
It's still early but the makings of another tough defensive identity are showing up.
"That's what we've been creating since the offseason, you know, OTAs all the way up to preseason into the season," said Wilson. "We just always talk about what we want our identity to be as a defense and you know, there's just playing hard, making plays, causing turnovers and not giving up explosive plays, no mental errors and things like that. So, we just try our best to keep our foot on the gas pedal, take everything one day at a time and just continue to form their identity with the way we prep for games."
Despite the strong start, Wilson and the defense aren't taking any time off to feel good about themselves.
"Obviously, we're in Week 2, we're just trying to keep building on what we've been putting on display thus far," said Wilson. "So it's been pretty good, but we can't get complacent. You know, we just got to continue to keep stringing things together. Continue to keep working hard. Keep our heads down and just control what we control."