- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The formula for the Patriots' defense against the Jets was a simple one: More heat, better results.
Sparked by an aggressive pass rush, which contributed to the shaky play of rookie Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, the New England defense finished with four interceptions and one fumble recovery. The last time the Patriots had four interceptions in a game was Dec. 17, 2006 against the Texans.
The timing couldn't have been better for a defensive unit that surrendered 21 fourth-quarter points to the Colts last Sunday and was seemingly called into question after Bill Belichick gambled on a late fourth-and-2 play instead of punting.
According to ESPN Stats & Information tracking, the Patriots blitzed on 12 of the Jets' 23 pass plays. They only blitzed Sanchez five times in the Sept. 20 meeting between the teams, a 16-9 New York victory.
"They definitely came after us more, they wanted to heat Sanchez up more," Jets right tackle Damien Woody said.
Sanchez melted under the rush, with Tully Banta-Cain recording two sacks to give him a team-high five on the season. Cornerback Leigh Bodden had a career day with three interceptions, the first of which he returned 53 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.
It was the perfect combination.
"We got some pressure on the quarterback and a couple of our hits on Sanchez came because the coverage was good and that gave the rushers an opportunity to get that extra half step there and that makes a difference," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "That was good team defense."
From a scheme standpoint, the Patriots played their 3-4 defense on early downs, then brought on a dime package (six defensive backs) in passing situations.
The 3-4 alignment was solid against the run, as the Jets entered the game ranked first in the NFL by averaging 170 yards per game. They were limited to 104 Sunday, a credit to a sturdy primary front seven of linemen Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren and Mike Wright, and linebackers Adalius Thomas, Pierre Woods, Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton.
Meanwhile, the defensive backs took care of their responsibilities down the field. Jonathan Wilhite and Bodden started at corner, with Brandon Meriweather and Brandon McGowan at safety. Pat Chung and Darius Butler came on in sub situations.
Sanchez finished 8 of 21 for 136 yards.
"I think the defense is coming along," Wilhite said. "I feel like we're getting our hands on more balls and just competing."
No one was more active than Bodden, whose three interceptions tied a franchise record, although teammates ribbed him because all three picks seemed to be thrown right at him.
The first interception set the tone for the day, with Bodden's return giving the Patriots a 7-0 lead.
"I just played man-to-man, pressed up," Bodden said. "[Jerricho] Cotchery ran to the outside and tried to cut back in and I saw the ball and just went for it, caught it, and the rest was history."
Bodden said he felt the defense, which had nine interceptions in the season's first nine games, would have an opportunity for turnovers against Sanchez.
"We actually look at turnovers every week on Saturday," he said. "He's thrown some balls to guys and we definitely knew we could probably get some of those, we just had to catch them. That's what one of my old coaches said, 'You've just got to catch the ones they throw to you' and we did."
Patriots defense brings heat, and Sanchez wilts