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Have the Patriots turned a corner on defense?

10.29.12 at 1:53 pm ET

Twitter nearly crashed when Sam Bradford connected with Chris Givens for 50 yards on the fifth play of the game on Sunday for a touchdown that put the Rams up, 7-0.

The play – a play-action to the left side with a right side rollout by Bradford – drew in safeties Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson just enough that the Rams QB could lob a bomb to his receiver on deep route. Givens caught the ball and tumbled into the end zone for a touchdown that mirrored the very same play that beat the Patriots in Seattle two weeks earlier.

Patriots fans in attendance at Wembley and watching on the tele back home couldn’t believe it happened again. Or maybe they could. But for McCourty – who was playing with rookies Alfonzo Dennard and Wilson – the Patriots had to find their composure quickly.

“Big play, definitely,” McCourty said after New England’s 45-7 win. “I think early in the season, that kills us, giving up a big play. Then we put our heads down, give up another one. I thought we did a good job today of putting that play past us, then playing great defense, after that. I think that’s what we have to focus on. Sometimes we are going to make some plays. We just got to keep playing, make our own plays.”

And make plays the two rookies did as Wilson and Dennard each came up with interceptions in the second half to help keep the Rams off the board.

“Our two rookies did a good job today, Tavon and Alfonzo, making two big plays on their own,” McCourty said. “That’s when you need those plays.”

The fact is the play to Givens accounted for just one score and it would be the only points the Patriots would allow as Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia switched to a pressure-based defense that featured three blitzes on the next Rams series. Dont’a Hightower, Wilson and Brandon Spikes all came up to force more pressure at the line of scrimmage. Throw in the fact that veteran corner Kyle Arrington went down with a head injury and the Patriots were already without Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, and you see why McCourty was proud of the resiliency the secondary showed.

“There were some moving parts back there,” McCourty added. “I think Marquice Cole did a good job. I think he’s been ready all season, just waiting for his opportunity to get out there. Unfortunately when Kyle went down, he stepped in and played well. I think one thing we understand in this league, each game anything can happen. A lot of guys are just staying ready, being ready to go. Guys stepped up and played well.”

McCourty played his second game as starting safety with Gregory and Chung both out. And he’s starting to look and sound like a leader.

“Yeah, definitely. I felt I did a better job communicating, getting all those guys on the right track,” McCourty said. “Actually once you have some moving parts back there, guys go down, it’s important everybody lines up and plays the same defense. They put me back there, put me in charge of making sure everyone knows what they’re doing. I felt I did a better job this week than last week. Things started to slow down for me back there.

What will help the Patriots secondary the most in the 2nd half?

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Read More: Alfonzo Dennard, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole



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