FOXBORO -- Duron Harmon's postgame comments Sunday might've elicited a double-take or two.
"We're getting there," he said. "We're getting there."
Excuse me? You're what now? Setting a Super Bowl era record by not allowing a rushing or passing touchdown through three weeks of regular season play seems to be a little better than "getting there." For the second straight week -- albeit against a hapless divisional opponent -- the Patriots defense did not allow a point. The numbers are laughable.
But to hear Harmon and the rest of the Patriots defense tell it, they still feel as though they have a lot of room to grow. They insist.
"Are we at where we're going to be in Week 9, Week 10? No," Harmon said. "We're still working through things. We're still working through disguises. We're still working through the coverages that we're really, really good at. We're still learning so much about ourselves. We're getting there, though."
Part of the reason Patriots defenders don't want to acknowledge just how thoroughly they've outclassed the opposition is because they have a coach who will let them hear about every last one of their mistakes in their Monday meeting regardless of whether they pitched another shutout or not.
"If you ever sit in a Bill Belichick meeting, don't worry. He'll find it," Devin McCourty said when asked how the defense is finding areas to pinpoint for improvement when they've been dominating offenses.
"We'll come in here tomorrow and he'll have it broken down. Whether it's run technique, whether it's pass-rush games up front, leveraging coverage, depth on the safeties on the half-field, on the middle. All of those fundamentals he'll have down.
"When that film goes up on that board, you'll see the corrections at the top for each number, each guy out there. So you'll never have to worry about finding the corrections out there. He finds them and he knows football as well as anybody, so we take that to heart when we come in here. And I think one thing is we've just got to continue to get good at everything. You guys have seen it through the years. Defensively, we're always trying to be in different things and have multiples, so we've just got to continue to improve on all of those phases."
Going into Sunday, the Patriots were first in points allowed, second in rush yards allowed, eighth in pass yards allowed, third in sacks, first in interceptions, second in yards per attempt allowed and second completion percentage allowed.
On Sunday they held Luke Falk to 4.5 yards per attempt, sacked him five times and picked him off once (Devin McCourty's third in as many games). The Jets only picked up 2.2 yards per play and 1.8 yards per rush. They were 0-for-13 on third and fourth-down conversion attempts.
And yet, Belichick will be quick with the corrections about 24 hours later.
"There's gonna be times," Jason McCourty said, "when you turn on the film and whatever call it is, 'This person [had] the wrong play . . . He didn't cover the guy he was supposed to cover.' There's always going to be things that he can put on the film. It's like, 'We screwed this up, we screwed that up.'
"I think for us, especially as older guys and guys trying to understand where we're trying to get to as a defense, there's always going to be things to work on. I think you have to take that personal and look in the mirror. Whether you played well, whether you played bad, what can you improve on? How can I personally make this defense better?"
Sometimes, the answer is right there for you on the projection screen. Written out for all your teammates to see. Not hard to figure out. Belichick makes sure of it.
"Not at all when coach Belichick is your coach," Harmon said. "He's going to point out everything we didn't do well. He's going to highlight it. At the end of the day, you need that. We're hearing so much about how good we are and this and that.
"But at the end of the day, it's Week 3. How can we improve? How can we take this defense to another level, another step, so that we can continue to win football games?"
Kyle Van Noy hasn't been afraid to tell media members in the past that the defense -- in an NFL locale where the offense has been the attention-getter for years now -- deserves some credit.
But even Van Noy would acknowledge they've gotten their share of attention after the three games he and his teammates have put together. Can't revel in it.
"Don't believe the hype now," he said. "Don't believe the hype. It's a lose-lose if I say something. You know what I mean? I've just gotta keep it at that."
If the players making up the Patriots defense can keep this up, it'll be a long time before they'll need to be their own best hype men. Instead, humility was a focus in the home locker room at Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Just as Belichick would like it.
"It's good for people to notice your efforts," Harmon said, "But at the end of the day, we've gotta stay humble. We gotta stay with this grinding attitude that we've got right now. Because we know there are going to be some tough games. We've gotta make sure that we're humble. Locked in the same way each and every week with our preparation, our practice habits . . . If we do those things we'll have good showings on Sunday."
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