Colts vs. Patriots: Aqib Talib Could Bring New England's Secondary Together

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Colts vs. Patriots: Aqib Talib Could Bring New England's Secondary Together
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It's been 18 days since the the New England Patriots traded for cornerback Aqib Talib, but his presence proved to be well worth the wait.

It was an up-and-down performance from the defense as a whole, but it was a promising first outing for the troubled former first-round pick.

Patriots players had commended him for his versatility leading into today's game, and it was on full display on Sunday. 

It was a change from the norm for the Patriots, who usually ease new guys into the game. It was especially surprising, considering Talib's long layover between his last game on Sept. 30, 2012 and Sunday.

Talib played nearly every snap, coming out only on a few occasions to catch his breath before going right back out. The Patriots used him in different ways, putting him in man coverage and deep in zone. 

Despite great coverage, Talib gave up a touchdown to Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton on the opening drive. He made up for it when, despite not even being the one in coverage, he returned an interception of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck for a touchdown.

Plays like that will go a long way in validating the Patriots for making the trade, but the Patriots would settle for good coverage at this point.

The Patriots defense picked up right where it left off against the Bills on the opening drive this week, but hit a turning point after some chalk talk from head coach Bill Belichick. Overall, it was some of the better pass defense we've seen from New England this season.

"By that third or fourth series we kind of got into it," Talib said, according to MassLive.com. "It was kind of quiet. We got talking and kind of got into it after that series."

The Patriots secondary intercepted three passes, and ran two back for touchdowns. They also gave up over 300 yards passing for the fifth time this season, and their defense allowed the Colts to convert 8-of-14 third downs (57.1 percent).

So, up-and-down may not do it justice.

But as has been the case all season long, even when they've been struggling, it wasn't all about the guys in coverage. The Patriots started out without getting much pressure on Luck, but their interior pressure was much improved throughout the first half. Pressure from defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was largely responsible for the poor throw on Talib's pick-six.

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The Patriots defensive linemen gave chase to Luck, flushing him from the pocket on multiple occasions. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich logged a sack-fumble, his fourth of the season, further adding to a 2012 season that is loaded with big plays including six sacks and five forced fumbles.

With Talib in the fold, the Patriots may have another big-play threat for their defense. We'll see how that holds up over time, but for today, the Patriots defense took a step in the right direction thanks to a solid effort from their new acquisition.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained via team press releases.

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