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The Early Lead
Posted at 10:32 AM ET, 11/14/2011

Patriots control AFC East with a big hand from Andre Carter


Andre Carter gets after Mark Sanchez. Again. (Nick Laham / Getty Images)
Overshadowed in the dismal failure that was Albert Haynesworth’s tenure in New England was the quiet competence of Andre Carter, another former Washington Redskins player who moved north over the offseason.

The “quiet” part ended Sunday night, when Carter set a Patriots record with 4.5 sacks of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and managed to get after him three other times.

“I’m still shocked, still soaking it in,” an emotional Carter, who ranks fourth in the NFL with nine sacks, said, via Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald. “I’m just happy we went out there and got the win. That’s the most important thing.”

New England’s 37-16 victory puts the Patriots in the driver’s seat in the AFC East, ending a two-game losing streak and putting Bill Belichick/Tom Brady combo atop the NFL’s best with 117 regular-season wins.

After a half-season in which pundits wondered if the offense could put up more points than the defense gave up, the answer Sunday was pretty emphatic. Not bad for a motley band of undrafted rookies, practice-squad callups and free-agent signees like Carter, the 32-year-old defensive end who was released March 1 by the Redskins after five seasons. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich, the 135th pick in the 2006 draft, intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown.

“It’s definitely frustrating to lose two — plus games back to back,’’ Carter said, via the Boston Globe. “There wasn’t a time where we had to question ourselves, but there was a time where we had to look at ourselves in the mirror as men and as football players and ask, ‘What will be our defining moment?’ ’’

That may have been it.

By  |  10:32 AM ET, 11/14/2011

 
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