By: Ian Logue
If there was ever a guy who appears to be the “heart and soul” of the Patriots’ defense in the secondary, it appears that safety Patrick Chung may be on his way to being that guy.
Patrick Chung gave the Patriots defense quite an emotional lift this week. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
Chung, who returned to action Sunday night against the Steelers, had missed the past couple of weeks with a knee injury but rejoined his teammates and made quite a splash. If there was ever a reason to believe the phrase, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”, his absence revealed that he’s an incredibly important component of this defense.
His breakout performance during the Patriots win over Miami obviously caught everyone’s attention. In that Monday night game he made two big special teams plays along with a solid defensive effort. But Sunday night in his first game back since injuring his knee he did something that only leaders do.
He made his teammates better.
The energy and fire New England’s defense played with against the Steelers definitely stood out to anyone who watched this one. They dominated a Pittsburgh team that looked completely outclassed by a Patriots team that simply had their way with them through most of the evening.
He was everywhere. After each play, his number seemingly appeared in the pile after each defensive stop. He lead the team in tackles for the second time this season, finishing with 10 combined tackles including helping make a hit that lead to James Sanders’ interception return for a touchdown. He was also solid in coverage, and helped New England cover the middle of the field much better this week – which was an area that they hadn’t been quite as effective in while he was out.
Their pressure defensively was also much better this week. Chung was in on quite a few blitzes Sunday night as they did a good job getting pressure on Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They knocked him around quite a bit, which Belichick talked about after the game.
“Give the credit to the players,” said Belichick. “There were guys blocking them, but they were able to get past those blocks. Roethlisberger’s a hard guy to tackle, we had our hands on him a lot, couldn’t get him down. He’s tough, but we were able to get a hold of him there and hogtie him down a couple times.”
They got him down more than a couple of times – five to be exact, and there were a couple of times where Chung was in the backfield to help disrupt their offense.
They caught a scare late in this one after Chung went down once after getting banged up, and then again later where he was down for a bit on the turf before heading to the sideline and didn’t return. However, Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald reported that Chung was seen on the sidelines smiling and laughing and looking pretty upbeat, so hopefully he’ll be ready to go next Sunday when the Colts come to town.
Before the season started Belichick hoped that this young group would find their own identity. The good news is they appear to have an emotional leader emerging in their secondary – and that’s encouraging for Patriots fans who have to be happy to see that he’s gotten healthy at just the right time.