Sports

Patriots’ defense has improved in limiting big plays

Devin McCourty’s shift to safety is seen as contributing the Patriots’ better defense.
Devin McCourty’s shift to safety is seen as contributing the Patriots’ better defense.Credit: file/associated press/stew milne

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FOXBOROUGH – As the Baltimore Ravens came back from 13-0 first-quarter and 30-21 fourth-quarter deficits against the Patriots last September, they did it largely with big plays.

Lots of big plays.

As quarterback Joe Flacco completed nearly 72 percent of his passes that night, 252 of his 382 yards came on just nine plays — and seven of those nine either were touchdown passes or were key parts of scoring drives in the Ravens’ 31-30 win.

There was a lot to forget about the defensive performance of the Patriots in 2012, particularly the number of 20-plus-yard passing plays the unit surrendered over the first five or six games.

But through the first five games this season, the Patriots have had a marked decline in that category.

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