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Sports

October 26, 2009

Defense steals the show

Your 2009 New England Patriots officially have an identity.

They're talented and they're tough.

Oh, yeah, and Tom Brady and the offense are good, too.

The Patriots enter the bye week at 5-2 and coming off their biggest back-to-back bashings — a combined 94-7 — since Brady & Co. averaged 49.7 points over a three-game stretch in 2007.

The offensive has kicked in as we saw with yesterday's 35-7 shellacking of the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers at London's Wembley Stadium.

Brady was sharp (23 of 32, 308 yards, 3 TDs), Wes Welker did his thing (10 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD), but points scored don't matter.

With Brady back to doing what he does best, and Welker moving the chains, that is a given.

The Patriots defense was and still is the wild card. And it is time to give this unit their props.

As bad as the Bucs are, and they are pretty bad, and as bad as their quarterbacks are, and Josh Johnson (9 of 26, 156 yards, 3 interceptions) and Josh Freeman (2 of 4, 16 yards) are pretty bad, the defense was still near perfect.

Remember, the defense did yeoman's work in the two losses to the Jets (16-9) and Broncos (20-17 in OT). The problem was the Pats were shut out after halftime in both those games.

Through seven weeks, only the Broncos (11.0) and Colts (12.8) have yielded fewer points per game than the Patriots (14.0).

This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Bill Belichick's defense, which explains why 34-year-old Mike Vrabel was traded and 36-year-old Tedy Bruschi and 36-year-old Rodney Harrison were forced into retirement.

In other words, it was time to move on. Or as the critics noted often the last few seasons, it was time to get younger and more athletic.

They have.

Veteran starters Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren are 27- and 28-years old, respectively, and seven different players in regular or semi-regular roles are 25 or younger.

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