BOSTON (AP) – While Tom Brady picked apart the Vikings with one of the best games of his brilliant career, the Patriots defense was content to dominate out of the spotlight.

Its most noticeable stretch may have been three consecutive plays in which it sacked a backup quarterback. From start to finish, though, the defense was nearly as spectacular as the quarterback who led New England to a 31-7 rout of Minnesota on Monday night.

“We had a job to do to come out here and perform and just win,” linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. “We were confident but didn’t think the score would end up like that.”

In fact, the only touchdown by the Vikings came on a punt return. Brady threw four touchdown passes. His defense had four interceptions and four sacks.

The veteran defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters. It has given up just seven in seven games. The team has allowed 87 points, third fewest in the NFL.

And next Sunday night it faces Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, who are fourth in the league with 205 points.

“Our football team does have a lot of versatile guys, a lot of guys that can play lot of different roles and different defenses,” said defensive end Richard Seymour. “We have the ability to move in and out of fronts and give offenses different looks.

“There is still a lot of football left to be played. Looking down the road to next week is another big game. It doesn’t get any easier.”

Manning leads the NFL in quarterback rating and is second in the league behind only Donovan McNabb in yards passing and touchdown passes. Last Sunday, he led Indianapolis to a 34-31 win over Denver, which had allowed just 44 points in its previous six games.

So Manning is a much tougher challenge than Vikings starter Brad Johnson, who threw three interceptions, or second-stringer Brooks Bollinger, who was greeted when he entered the game early in the fourth quarter by an attacking defense that tackled him three times before he could throw the ball.

“Sometimes,” Bollinger said, “it’s good to get in there and knocked down once and then get going.”

But he never did and finished with an interception on his last play.

“We knew they liked to dump it off to the running backs and tight ends,” Bruschi said. “We wanted to play those tight and not just give them 5 yards, 6 yards, or 8 yards here and sometimes they catch them and go for 10 or 15 yards.”

The Patriots haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a game this season. That happened in each of the first three games. In the four games since then, they’ve given up a total of 36 points.

They allowed an 18-yard touchdown run in their opener then two long touchdown passes in each of the next two games.

Then the Patriots faced the Bengals. Cincinnat had amassed 85 points in its first three games but lost 38-13, its only touchdown coming on Rudi Johnson’s 2-yard run. In the next game, New England beat Miami 20-10. Ronnie Brown scored on a 2-yard run for the Dolphins.

But the Patriots had to go on the road for their next two games. No problem. They beat Buffalo 28-6 before crushing Minnesota.

“We scored a lot of points, our defense didn’t give up any points, we played well tonight, especially on a national stage,” said safety Rodney Harrison, who intercepted a pass at the Patriots 2-yard line. “I think we showed people that we are for real and that we have a pretty good football team.”

Harrison, like his teammates, is never one to overstate his team’s ability. So he calls his next opponent, the Colts, “the best team in football.”

Brady, in fact, didn’t plan to celebrate the latest victory very long. He said he planned to study a DVD of the Indianapolis defense on the flight home from Minnesota.

His ability to move the offense through the air against the Vikings’ tough run defense helped his own defense.

“The way he spread the ball around and the way they were able to move the ball up and down the field, that makes it easier to play defense,” Bruschi said. “All of a sudden, we are up 17-0 and it took the Vikings out of their game plan.”

Still, Brady didn’t sack anybody, intercept a pass or tackle a ball carrier short of a first down.

“Anytime our offense puts points on the board, we can stop them on defense,” Seymour said. “Anytime we can keep the other team out of the end zone, that’s the biggest step.”


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