In the past few weeks, the Patriots’ defense has blown some coverages, not filled against the run properly, and exhibited some shoddy tackling. It was certainly good enough to win and the type of performance of which 85 percent of the league would be envious. And considering the average age of the defense is just 25.6 years and includes three rookies, it was play that was admirable and showed improvement. But while the Patriots were playing good enough to roll to regular-season victories, and even against an AFC contender like the Texans, that type of play would not be good enough against the elite competition that will stand in the way of another Lombardi Trophy: the Broncos in the AFC, and the 49ers, Packers, Falcons, and Giants in the NFC.

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