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Rob Ninkovich on M&M: ‘When the game’s over, we’re still winning’

12.19.11 at 1:16 pm ET
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Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday to recap Sunday’s 41-23 victory over the Broncos. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The Patriots fell behind 16-7 and looked shaky early before altering their defensive game plan and turning things around in the second quarter.

“You go into each week preparing for what that team has done in the previous few weeks, Ninkovich said. “Every team’s going to come in and do something different to you. Denver, you’ve got to give them credit for coming in and having a good, solid game plan that we had to adjust to.”

Added Ninkovich: “The first couple of drives, we didn’t have everything all together as far as our communication and all that stuff. We had to settle down a little bit and all come together and just say, hey, we can’t let this go on or else it’s not going to be a good game for us. We just had to stop the run, and those turnovers were huge for us.”

Even when the Patriots looked overmatched, Ninkovich said the team kept its cool.

“It’s the bend-but-don’t-break mentality,” he said. “There’s always frustration when there’s big runs being broken out. You’ve just got to be calm and collected and talk to each other and make sure that we’re all on the same page. You can’t panic. As the year has gone on, yeah, we’ve let up some yardage. But when the game’s over, we’re still winning, so that’s all that matters.”

Ninkovich learned first-hand how tough Tim Tebow is to tackle, as the quarterback escaped his grasp in the backfield and broke free for a touchdown in the opening period.

“He’s a big boy,” Ninkovich said. “You’ve got to give the kid credit. He’s a great football player. ‘€¦ That’s all on me. I need to just bring my feet in a little more under me, especially when they’re running that option. That’s a free hundred-mile-an-hour hit on him. I just have to be a little more physical on that one. I wrapped him up and I just didn’t bring him down. That’s all on me, that one right there.”

Added Ninkovich: “He’s an athlete. He’s a good football player. After that game, I have a lot more respect. He can get out of the pocket and do things with his feet.”

There was some bad news for the Patriots Sunday, as defensive lineman Andre Carter left with a leg injury that is reported to be season-ending.

“Andre, he’s been a great veteran for us. ‘€¦ He’s been through a lot of different things,” Ninkovich said. “He brought a lot of experience to our team and leadership. Whatever his injury is, I hope he can be back as soon as possible. With football, there’s always going to be injuries. You’ve just got to have another guy step in.”

Read More: Andre Carter, Rob Ninkovich, Tim Tebow,
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