Simple solution for Patriots' defense

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The secret to the Patriots' success on defense Sunday? It was simple.

In the aftermath of a 20-10 triumph over the Carolina Panthers, New England's defensive players suggested that the coaching staff essentially dumbed down the game plan this week, hoping to eliminate the communication problems that have plagued the unit in recent losses.

Sprinkle in the return of veterans Shawn Springs and James Sanders to the starting lineup, and add a healthy dose of Junior Seau at middle linebacker, and the result was one of the defense's finest all-around outings of the season.

While no one will compare Carolina's offense to that of the Colts or Saints, the Patriots were pleased to limit their opponent to 10 points, easing things for an offense that looked mightily out of sync in the first half.

"To play well as a secondary, we know we didn't play too good in the last two games that we've played," said cornerback Leigh Bodden. "We wanted to come out and play well and communicate. It's good to move forward. It's good to get those games behind us and just move forward in a positive direction."

In an effort to let the Patriots' natural talents take over, players said the coaches simplified the game plan, eliminating some of the confusion that cropped up, particularly in coverage.

"The coaches did an excellent job coming in with an easier game plan than usual," said Patriots defensive captain Jerod Mayo, who joined Sanders with a team-high seven tackles.

"[The game plan was] trying to make sure everyone was on the same page. The previous two games, we had a couple of communication problems. We didn't want that to happen today and it didn't, so job well done for the coaches."

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