Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Patriots' defense working to improve on third down

Photo: Daniel Spiesse, Flickr 

The Patriots' defense had a few issues last season, but the biggest may have been its lack of production on third down.

New England allowed opponents to move the chains on third down 43 percent of the time, which was tied for fifth-worst in the league.

"That's always an issue. If you can force teams into third downs, then you have to be able to get off the field," Vince Wilfork told reporters Thursday, according to Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn't. Every year that's a focus point."

With a high-powered offense like the Patriots', it's not uncommon for defenses to focus more on preventing the big play to the end zone than worrying about the short stuff that will accumulate first downs. However, New England had some teams make late-game, backbreaking drives on it last season.

The Patriots were unable to get off the field on third downs 46 percent of the time during the playoffs.

"Being able to get turnovers defensively, get off the field on third down and create negative plays, all of those things are goals that we want to achieve throughout the year," Wilfork said. "The first step to all of that is now. Getting guys in here for OTAs, getting familiar with one another, seeing how each other plays and getting the system down and just working on things that you need work on."

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