Patriots safety James Sanders, who had a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown in Sunday night's win over the Steelers, has been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, the Patriots announced.
This is the Patriots' first Player of the Week honor of the season, and the first of Sanders' six-year career.
It's a bit of a surprise.
Sanders, who was not part of the base 3-4 defense but played a high total of snaps (62 of 78) because of his presence in sub packages, finished with four tackles and the fourth-quarter interception which came when the score was 23-10. He also was in on the hit that knocked Steelers receiver Hines Ward out of the game in the first quarter.
Fellow safety Patrick Chung was one of the best defenders on the field, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles and one pass defended. Linebacker Jerod Mayo (9 tackles, 1 for a loss) and defensive lineman Mike Wright (1.5 sacks) were also standouts.
All would have been solid candidates for the award.
Sanders' pick-six seemed to sway the vote in his direction.