EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

November 9, 2006

Simplified, selfless, stifling:Belichick's 3-4 team defense keeps Pats at top of AFC

FOXBORO - Wanted: Aging, cagey linebacker with diminished and declining athletic abilities, a nose for the football, the will to tackle and punish, and the desire to win championships. Must prefer Super Bowl over Pro Bowl. Please call Bill Belichick.



Junior Seau is just the latest veteran to accept the coach's proposition to play the pivotal inside linebacker in Belichick's selfless 3-4 defensive set.



Think about what Belichick has squeezed out of Bryan Cox, Ted Johnson and Roman Phifer, all in the same spot.



And now the 37-year-old Seau, 17 years in the NFL, racking up tackles (53 in eight games) like his 20-something days in San Diego.



Of course, tackling is Seau's job. Not roaming sideline to sideline with tenacity and abandon, as he did with the Chargers.



Nope. There are at least five, sometimes six or seven, other defenders funneling the ball carriers at Seau and Tedy Bruschi inside. Their job is tackle.



"Get an opportunity to make a play, and you're expected to make it," said outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin.



Last seen floundering with the Dolphins in Miami, Seau signed here at the insistence of former Chargers mate Rodney Harrison, just two days after "retiring" from the game.




His game, due to injuries somewhat, had fallen off immeasurably, forcing Seau to think about hanging it up.



That's where Harrison came in, citing the likes of Phifer and Cox, who flourished at the spot with their instincts for the game.



Through eight games, seven of which Seau has started inside, the Pats are 6-2 with a defense that's ranked third against the rush, third in points allowed and 12th in yardage overall.



Colvin says that attitude is as important as athleticism on defense here in New England.



How else can you explain Belichick expending three No. 1 draft choices on defensive lineman in five years and asking them to focus on the dirty work.



"Defensively here, you have to be unselfish. It has to rank up at the top for importance," said Colvin. "Year in year out, the team defensively, you have to be unselfish. If you think it's all about you, you need to be the guy in the middle of everything, then you're not really understanding what we're trying to accomplish as a defensive unit.



"The guys here in this locker room have a good understanding of that, of a group that's trying to go out there and win a game, not get a guy 15 sacks or 10 interceptions. We're just trying to win a game."



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