FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Maybe this isn’t a one-dimensional team.

Maybe it’s time to start believing in the New England Patriots defense.

Yes, Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes Thursday night, giving him 20 for the season, as the Patriots romped past the Miami Dolphins 36-7 at Gillette Stadium to improve to 7-0 and burst whatever feel-good bubble there was in South Florida.

But for the second time in five days, the Patriots defense deserved equal billing.

In Sunday’s 30-23 victory over the New York Jets, the Patriots held the NFL’s leading rusher, Chris Ivory, to just 41 yards. Thursday night, the Dolphins running game was non-existent, with just 15 yards on 13 attempts. This a week after the Dolphins rushed for 248.

Sure, New York’s Ryan itzpatrick threw for 295 yards on Sunday and Ryan Tannehill threw for 300 yards on Thursday. But those yards were empty stats, good for fantasy football but nothing more.

Chandler Jones, who had two of New England’s five sacks against Tannehill, doesn’t seem to care that the focus continues to be on New England’s offense led by Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“The Brady and the Gronk talk, that’s talk about the New England Patriots,” he said. “We’re a team. We’re all moving together and we’re brothers. And it’s great. It’s a great feeling around here.”

The Patriots have never been ones to boast, maybe because they’re taught to simply play the game. That, said defensive end Rob Ninkovich, is exactly what the defense has done the last two weeks.

“We’re just focusing on doing our job, paying together, playing team defense,” said Ninkovich. “We’re focusing on putting together a good collective effort.”

That they did. In addition to sacking Tannehill five times – Ninkovich, Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty getting the others – they intercepted him twice, leading to 10 points.

The first interception, by Logan Ryan, led to a Stephen Gostkowski 52-yard field goal late in the second quarter that made it 12-0. The second, a diving catch by Duron Harmon, led to 10-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Edelman with 13:29 left in the game that made it 29-7.

The defense showed improvement in an important category this week as well. The Jets were able to keep drives going by converting eight-of-14 third-down opportunities (57 percent) on Sunday. Thursday night, the Patriots got the Dolphins off the field – Miami was only 2-of-11 on third-down conversions (18 percent).

And New England was fortunate on Thursday that the defense played so well, especially in the first half. After Brady directed the Patriots 80 yards in eight plays on the first drive of the game to go ahead 7-0 on a 47-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots offense sputtered against a Dolphins defense that was getting heavy pressure on Brady against New England’s make-shift offensive line..

But Ryan Allen’s punting kept putting Miami in poor field position and the defense never let the Dolphins get anything going.

They first took Lamar Miller (125 rushing yards last week) out of the game, cutting off his running lanes and bottling up the middle.

Then they took aim at Tannehill, forcing him out of the pocket and not letting him go through his reads.

But as good as they look now, veteran safetey Patrick Chung said they need to get better.

“We’re just playing man,” said Chung. “It’s been good the last couple of weeks, which is good for us, but one week can change everything so we’ve got to keep going, keep pushing, keep trying to get better.”

That’s just the way it is with the Patriots.


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