Haynesworth, defense rise to challenge

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Mark Anderson highlighted both an improved Patriots pass rush and third-down defense.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After captain Jerod Mayo went down with a knee injury last week in Oakland, Patriots defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said he heard talk from pundits suggesting that a struggling New England defense was further doomed without its leader in the middle of the field.

Haynesworth and the Patriots' defense responded with their most inspired effort of the season, limiting the rival Jets to 255 yards of total offense (roughly half of the 506 yards they allowed in Oakland, and nearly 200 yards fewer than their previous best effort of the season) in a 30-21 triumph at Gillette Stadium.

Perhaps the most encouraging stat was that New York converted just 3-of-11 third-down conversions Sunday, allowing the defense to get off the field, including a staggering seven three-and-outs over 11 drives (essentially, if the Patriots didn't get off the field in three plays, the Jets scored a touchdown).

"We put more -- and I'm not saying we haven’t -- but players put more of an emphasis on third down today and getting off the field on third down," Haynesworth said. "We took the challenge, then went out there and got it done. We're still not happy with 21 points, but we'll work on that.

"We know that we've got the talent, we have all the parts, we just need to put it together. That’s what we did.

"Jerod wasn't out there with us and I heard the media -- some of the guys said we don't have a shot because Jerod wasn't in the game. We wanted to step up and show that it’s a good defense, no matter who comes in for him."

Haynesworth said he cramped a bit in the second half, but that could have been the result of sitting out the last two games with a back injury. He didn't register a tackle Sunday, but aided an improved pass rush with one of five quarterback hits for New England.

"There's a lot of new pieces -- me, Andre [Carter], Shaun [Ellis]-- we need time to gel," Haynesworth said. "We didn’t have that minicamp, that offseason, so we've got to let this defense gel. And once we do gel, we'll become a good defense."