The New England Patriots’ defense is the perfect mix of smash and dash. If Vince Wilfork doesn’t sit on the quarterback — forcing a fumble — then Darrelle Revis will pick his pass.
They go out with specific goals. Typically, yardage allowed isn’t on the check list. They seem to abide by a simple principle — the defense is there to prevent the other team from scoring more points than the opposing offense. If that means letting up copious amounts of yards, then so be it. Bill Belichick wants to win. If he’s 16-0 and somehow the Patriots are last in yards allowed, then so be it.
The Pats’ defense limit scoring by winning the turnover battle. They’ve forced seven turnovers in eight quarters this year (five interceptions, two fumbles). With their only two turnovers coming on a pair of Tom Brady fumbles against the Dolphins, that puts the team at +5. The D has seven sacks to boot.
Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller gashed and bled the Pats’ defense for 193 yards, yet neither running back accounted for a run longer than 15 yards. They didn’t break some big gain to boost their yardage average. They were grinding out almost 5.5 yards per carry on the Patriots defense. Then, the Pats corrected their error. The Vikings were without Adrian Peterson, but Matt Asiata is a solid back. He and the rest of their backfield ran for 2.0 yards per carry. Any defense that holds a team to 2.0 yards per carry should be commended, no matter whether the starter is present or unable to play due to a
People may criticize them for a lack of depth, but they say that every year. The randoms like Joe Vellano and Rob Ninkovich are born. Now, those randoms are starters. So, the state of the defense? All is well and good.
But the Patriots are 1-1. They’re a team that’s only half way there. Their defense won them one game, and their offense lost them another.
It’s almost like the Patriots are built backwards. They’ve had an elite offense for most of the last five or six years. On the other hand, they have no Super Bowls to show for it. Perhaps, this is Belichick trying to something new — trying to do something about his Lombardi Trophy drought.
Yet, their offensive line is like nectar and a sieve. It’s only a matter of time before the opponent gets through. Tom Brady has a case of robot laser vision on Julian Edelman. Rob Gronkowski looks like the bionic man. There’s a stiffness to the offense. It’s ugly and uncreative.
While the Patriots have a potent one-two punch of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hasn’t done anything innovative with either of them. Call me crazy, but ever since the Patriots drafted both of them in the 2012 draft, I expected them to use two running back backfields. They did it with tight ends (ala Gronk and Aaron Hernandez). So, it seemed like they were one step ahead of the NFL and on the verge of starting a new trend. But there they are, giving the ball to Ridley and Vereen for a vanilla 4.0 yards per carry. Put it all together and you have 10-of-31 on third down conversions.
There’s no sizzle. No style. No Ugg swagger.
But they scored 30 points against the Vikings, some might say. No, actually they didn’t. The defense scored seven on the Chandler Jones blocked kick. Then Devin McCourty ran back an interception to the one yard line. He gifted Stevan Ridley and his fantasy owners a touchdown. It’s beyond me why he didn’t dive into the end zone, but he was knocked out just before he stuck the ball beyond the pylon. So, the Patriots offense is quietly taking credit they don’t deserve. Meanwhile Brady is probably shooting glares across the locker room. Who knows, maybe he’s throwing shit. I wouldn’t put it past him. But someone needs to catch the ball whose name doesn’t rhyme with shmulian.
There is a silver lining. It’s a work in progress. The Patriots have had too many moving parts these last two seasons. Belichick could be getting too cocky and taking too many risks. Still, the man rarely bites off more than he can chew. Teams don’t have to be ready for the playoffs in week 2. In fact, most Super Bowl winners aren’t. It’s about getting momentum at the right time.
The offensive line can settle in. The Logan Mankins trade was incredibly disruptive. It put a lot of pressure on the new leadership, David DeGugliemo, who was replacing long-time great Dante Scharnecchia. DeGugliemo has a tough job ahead of him.
Gronkowski, admittedly, may not stay healthy. He may not even reach his former dominance. He’s humpty dumpty — the Patriots’ medical staff may never put him back together again. Even so, the rest of the offense could come together. Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have shown potential to be a reliable No. 3 receivers. Danny Amendola can be a No. 2. Tight end Tim Wright will never be like Aaron Hernandez (we hope), but he could catch 50 passes. Shane Vereen can be threatening in open space. The Patriots success largely depends those six. Julian Edelman will do his thing — he’s iron man. Brady’s not in decline. Don’t kid yourself.
The Patriots’ offense is only as good as Gronk, Amendola, Vereen, Thompkins, Dobson and Wright.
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