Defense wins in the NFL. Period.
Look at the last four Super Bowl winners and the 2001 Patriots were the only team that finished the season on top without leading the league in points allowed. With apologies to two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady and the rest of the New England offense, the defending champs owe recent success to a defense that, at times, bordered on dominant.
But with one game under their belt in 2004 the defenders in New England are well aware that their offensive counterparts played a key role in the 27-24 season-opening win over the Colts, extending the team's winning streak to 16 in a row. Far from dominant in their opening performance, giving up more than 200 yards rushing and 446 yards of total offense, the group of veteran defenders in the locker room at Gillette Stadium has taken a realistic approach to their lackluster opening effort.
"Hats off to our offense," All-Pro defensive tackle **Richard Seymour** said after the win. "They really kept us in this ballgame. They did a good job. If it wasn't for the other side of the ball, we wouldn't have won this game."
In helping to keep pace with one of the best offenses in the game Charlie Weis' unit finished the opener with 402 yards of total offense. Brady completed 26-of-38 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception, while spreading the ball around to seven different receivers. On the ground, new weapon Corey Dillon rushed 15 times for 86 yards (5.7 avg.) in his Patriots debut.
Those contributions, along with the defense's three forced red zone turnovers, gave the Patriots the win. But Willie McGinest, who made one of the biggest defensive plays of the game with a late sack of Peyton Manning, and the rest of the New England defenders know that they didn't carry their usual weight in the winning effort.
"The offense helped us out a lot," McGinest said.
That revelation gives the unit, one that has set rather high standards for itself over the last three seasons, a lot to strive for in the coming weeks. And maybe unfortunately for Dennis Green's group, the next team in the sights of a newly motivated Patriots defense that has something to prove is a young group of Cardinals this Sunday afternoon in Arizona.
With the extended break between Thursday's season opener and Sunday's game in Arizona, along with a Week Three bye, the Patriots will play just one game in a 28-day span. While that is clearly not the norm in the NFL, especially to start a season, it isn't something that Belichick is going to let affect his team in the coming weeks.
"It doesn't matter," Belichick said of the scheduling quirk. "It is what it is. When they schedule them, we play them. The days that the games aren't scheduled gives us a chance to improve our team on those days. We will try to take advantage of that. Every other team in the league has a bye week. We have one. We will do the best we can with the opportunities we have."
"Every team plays a 16-game schedule, and they have a bye week. With every long week there is a short week. With every short week there is a long week. In the end, everybody is going to play their 16 games in basically the same time frame within a couple of days. It is what it is. We are not going to worry about it. We are going to look at whatever it is and try to make the most of what we can with the opportunities in the time frame that we have to work in. When the games are scheduled, we will show up and play them."
**News and Notes**
The Patriots made a few moves over the weekend, one to fill an open spot on the 53-man roster and others that give new look to the team's eight-man practice squad. Saturday the team signed veteran running back Rabih Abdullah to add depth to the team's thin backfield group. The 6-0, 220-pound runner out of Lehigh is a seven-year veteran who spent the last two seasons in Chicago after spending his first four NFL seasons in Tampa. He's played in 74 games with one start, totaling 50 carries for 159 yards. Abdullah joins a group of running backs for the Patriots that went into last Thursday's season opener with the Colts with just two players active, Corey Dillon and Patrick Pass. … The team's other back, Kevin Faulk, was out for the opener for personal reasons. Faulk spent last week with ailing mother in his home state of Louisiana. Faulk's mother, Vivian, reportedly passed away last Tuesday. Faulk is also reportedly dealing with a knee injury, leaving his status for this week's game in Arizona a bit up in the air. "I don't know at this point," Belichick said on Friday of Faulk's status. "I haven't talked to him in a couple of days, so I'm not sure. I can't answer that question right now." … In reworking the practice squad the team released tackle David Pruce and signed guard Billy Yates. The 6-3, 305-pound Yates originally signed with the Dolphins as a rookie free agent in 2003 where he was inactive for 12 games as a rookie, but finished the year playing in three contests with Miami. The 6-8, 295-pound Pruce was an All-NFL Europe performer this spring as a left tackle for the Frankfurt Galaxy. … Practice squad safety Russell Stuvaints was signed to the active roster of his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Monday. … New England's practice squad now consists of Yates, wide receiver Michael Jennings, cornerback Christian Morton, running back Kory Chapman, linebacker Justin Kurpeikis, linebacker Eric Alexander and defensive lineman Buck Rasmussen