Foxborough, Mass. - As it turns out, even Patriots head coach Bill Belichick couldn't have scripted it any better. A day after he termed the Patriots two-minute scoring drive at the end of the first half the "difference" in Sunday's 13-7 win over the New York Jets, Belichick said his team had prepared for nearly the exact same situation in practices leading up to the game.
The drive Belichick was referring to, which led to their only touchdown of the game, started on their own 38-yard line with 1:49 on the clock and the Patriots trailing 7-6. Using the shotgun and often going without a huddle, the Patriots moved 62 yards in seven plays - as quarterback Tom Brady completed 6-of-7 passes for 62 yards - resulting in a 7-yard touchdown pass to David Patten with 11 seconds left in the half. The drive turned out to be critical as no other points were scored in the game.
]()By coincidence, the coaching staff had put the offense through a situational segment focusing on the two-minute drill during Friday's practice. The situational preparation isn't uncommon for the Patriots - they can include onside kicks, last-second field goals or downing punts - but the way Sunday's first half unfolded nearly mirrored what the Patriots had prepared for in practice.
"We try to cover all those situations," Belichick said. "Sometimes you hit those when you prepare, and sometimes you don't. When you do a two-minute drill in practice at the end of the week, you obviously can't cover every situation. Whichever one you pick out, the chances of that one coming up exactly that way in that game are probably not very good. What was interesting this week was that the situation that we had on Friday was identical to the one that came up at the end of the half. Identical. That was the way Charlie [Weis] scripted it, and that's exactly the way it turned out."
In Friday's practice, the two-minute offense worked against a scout team defense led by defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, who was instructing the defense on what New York plays to run. In terms of time on the clock, field position, timeouts and plays in the red zone, the situation the Patriots faced during practice would be exactly what offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was preparing for Sunday's game plan. What the coaching staff saw on Friday led them to re-visit their two-minute plan for Saturday's walk-through.
"We didn't like exactly where we were," Belichick said. "The way the drill turned out, was that we didn't really finish it very well. Part of it was just what we had in the game plan. We took a look at it Friday and revised it a little bit, went back over it on Saturday, and ironically it came up exactly the way that we had planned it. It was a good thing that we went in and talked about it. It probably resulted in more points than we would have otherwise.
"It was a nice job by Charlie to have the mental telepathy to practice that exact situation."
Improving On The RunAlthough it has been just over five weeks, it seems like a distant memory since the Patriots surrendered 202 yards rushing in the season-opening 27-24 win over Indianapolis. Led by 142 yards from Edgerrin James, the Colts averaged 4.8 yards per rush against a Patriots run defense that looked shaky at best and finished the opening week ranked tied for 30th against the rush.
]()Since that game the run defense has shown steady improvement. The Patriots haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since James - limiting the likes of Buffalo's Travis Henry, Seattle's Shaun Alexander and most recently Curtis Martin of the Jets - while allowing just under 92 yards per game against the run over the last three games. The run defense was particularly effective Sunday, holding Martin to 70 yards on 20 carries (3.5-yard per carry) with a long run of nine yards. Belichick said the run defense has been an overall effort.
"You'd like to think your team is going to improve in the early part of the season, regardless of what phase of the game that it's in," Belichick said. "Some of the yardage in that game is circumstantial, and some things that they hurt us with we could have done a better job at defending - both coaching and playing. We've tried to tighten up some of those areas. Other teams have tried to attack us using some element of the Colts-type of game plan. Overall I think we've tightened up our play a little bit.
"And, the Colts are pretty good. They're one of the best offensive teams in the league, if not the best."
Patriots' players were given the day off Monday following the team's first-ever 6-0 start to a season. ... No update was given Monday on injured fullback Dan Klecko, who left Sunday's game early in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a right leg injury. ... With Sunday's win, the Patriots improved to 8-0 during the month of October over the last two seasons. ... Corey Dillon's 115 yards rushing Sunday put him over the 100-yard mark for the third time this season, helping the Patriots improve to 11-0 since 1999 when they produce a 100-yard rusher. Through six games Dillon is averaging 106.2 yards per game, putting him on pace for a career-high 1,699 yards this season. Dillon currently ranks fourth in the AFC and sixth overall in the NFL in rushing.