TAMPA -- This didn't look anything like the defense that struggled to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback in 2010. The Patriots were swarming all over the field in Thursday's 31-14 preseason victory over the Buccaneers.
"We came out and Coach was talking about starting really fast. That was one of our main goals and I think we did a pretty good job with that," said linebacker Jerod Mayo, a leader of the charge with two sacks and five tackles.
The Patriots opened the game on defense, forcing a three-and-out. On third-and-9, the coverage was tight, forcing quarterback Josh Freeman to hold on to the ball longer than he wanted before firing incomplete.
Then, on the next drive, defensive tackles Gerard Warren and Myron Pryor combined to stuff running back LeGarrette Blount for a loss of 3 yards on first down. After a false start penalty and an incomplete pass, it was third-and-18.
Again, the Patriots came up with the stop on third down, which was their weak spot in 2010.
With the fast-paced New England offense scoring on its first drives, it was 14-0 just like that. This was an early-round knockout, sparked by the D.
"I thought we stopped them with defense," coach Bill Belichick said afterwards. "One thing we wanted to do was get off to a good start. We definitely didn't do that last week and I thought we had a little energy."
The style of play seemed to feed into that energetic approach, the Patriots playing with four down linemen and getting up the field. Right defensive end Andre Carter, making his first appearance with the Patriots, consistently brought heat off the edge.
"I did my best to play fast but still remain humble and still remain hungry," Carter said.
And Mayo himself was swarming, freed up as the big linemen in front of him created their own havoc.
"It does feel good having those big workhorses in front of me," Mayo said. "All those guys played well tonight. It just feels good to be able to run around with them."
Said Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris, "[They] did a great job of presenting different looks and really rushing and giving [quarterback Josh Freeman] a bunch of pressure, so we didn’t get what we wanted [on offense]."