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Defensive Adjustments Pay Off For Patriots

BOSTON (CBS) – After the Denver Broncos were able to do pretty much anything they wanted in the first quarter on Sunday, the New England Patriots changed things up.

The Patriots allowed 167 rushing yards in the first quarter, with Denver scoring on each of their first three possessions. The Broncos led 16-7 in the second quarter when it was time to change things up on defense.

"They came out smoking and we had to make a couple of adjustments on the sideline," said linebacker Jerod Mayo. "That's what football is about, making some adjustments and then getting the job done."

With Tim Tebow and the rest of the Broncos running wild, New England spaced things out on the defensive line, closer to a 3-4 alignment than the 4-3 they had been using.

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"We were in a little more odd spacing to try to keep the leverage on the formation," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "They gave us a lot of shifting early in the game, a lot of shifting and motion, changed formations. We were able to settle down for a combination of reasons. One of them was just to balance out the defense and help us a little bit."

This made defensive end Mark Anderson more of an outside linebacker, and the switch helped him break loose.

"We were still getting the feel for the offense to see what kind of scheme they were running. We got things adjusted, we made a few plays and we were able to turn things around and get the offense back on the field," said Anderson. "We were able to work those adjustments out and able to make plays; cause that type of disruption."

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After the switch, the Broncos ran for just 68 yards the rest of the way. The defense also came up with a pair of turnovers in the second quarter, which led to 10 New England points. Ron Brace stripped Denver back Lance Ball, and Anderson was able to strip Tebow to turn the deficit into a 24-16 lead. The Pats also got an extra three right before the half on a Quan Crosby muffed punt.

"We took advantage of a couple of their mistakes," said Belichick. "We were able to capitalize on those opportunities and take advantage of the ones we had too."

They also didn't allow Tebow to turn the fourth quarter into another comeback for his resume. After a 30-yard run to get Denver into New England territory, the Patriots were able to chase him down on fourth and 17 for a 28-yard loss.

"He's a very talented player. We were able to get him down," said Anderson, who sacked Tebow twice on Sunday. "He's a strong, physical quarterback, just like a powerful running back. We were able to get him a few times; everyone contributed as a team and we were able to get a victory."

"He's a very dynamic quarterback; to be able to drop back and throw the ball and run the ball," said corner Devin McCourty. "We came into the game knowing it was going to be a challenge, but we just kept harping on 'keep playing, keep playing. If he makes a play, don't worry about it.' We have to make our own plays and we made some big plays today on defense."

Read: Pats Enjoy "Hat and T-Shirt Day"

The Patriots defense was able to do something no other defense in the NFL could the last two months, and they were rewarded for it. Their win clinched the AFC East, and secured their ninth playoff berth in the last 11 years.

But the win over Tebow and the Broncos, and the division championship, will not be celebrated for long. It's a short week for the Patriots, who host the Miami Dolphins Saturday afternoon.

"We take it one week at a time. Our focus is on the next game Saturday," said Mayo.

Tune into the Patriots-Dolphins game Saturday, December 24 on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV. Pregame coverage begins at 9:00am on WBZ-TV with Patriots Gameday, with coverage beginning on 98.5 at 10:00am. After the game, tune in to The Postgame Show on the Hub, and Patriots Fifth Quarter on WBZ-TV.

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