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Jerod Mayo on M&M: ‘Fourth-down conversions were huge for us’

09.23.13 at 11:50 am ET
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Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss New England’€™s dominant defensive performance in the team’€™s 23-3 win over the Buccaneers.

The Patriots moved to 3-0 on the season thanks to a defensive unit that sacked quarterback Josh Freeman three times and forced him into 19-of-41 passing with one interception.

New England’€™s third- and fourth-down defense was superb. Tampa Bay went just 5-for-14 on third down, and the Bucs failed on all four fourth-down attempts.

‘€œAnytime we can get the ball back into our offense’€™s hands, it’€™s always going to be huge, we call it stealing possessions,’€ said Mayo, who recorded a team-high nine tackles and added a sack Sunday. ‘€œAnd like you said, those fourth-down conversions were huge for us, and they turned into points for our offense.’€

With an offense that features a number of rookie wide receivers, and no healthy go-to tight end, the unit needs time to work out the inevitable kinks. The defense has bought the offense that time, even though Mayo says his group is not concerned with the offense’€™s development.

‘€œCoach always tells us as a defense, our job is to keep people out of the end zone no matter what our offense is doing,’€ Mayo said. ‘€œWe never really think about that, we always just think about stealing possessions and getting the ball back to those guys.’€

In addition to shutting down Freeman, the defense kept second-year running back Doug Martin at bay. The shifty 5-foot-9 back ran for 88 yards on 20 carries.

‘€œAnytime you got a guy like that running behind 6-6 guys, it’€™s difficult to find him,’€ said Mayo. ‘€œHe’€™s a very explosive runner, but I think the guys did a good job getting 11 guys to the football and bringing him to the ground.’€

Mayo downplayed the significance of practicing with Tampa Bay before facing the Bucs in a preseason game.

‘€œAs far as knowing your personnel, knowing who you’€™re playing against, it was helpful that way, but as far as scheme is concerned it was a little bit different,’€ Mayo said.

New England’€™s defense will have a steeper challenge next week, as the Pats take on the Falcons’€™ high-flying offense run by quarterback Matt Ryan.

Mayo said it will “take a group effort’€ to slow playmakers like wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, tight end Tony Gonzalez and running backs Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers.

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

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