“We have a great foundation as far as young guys getting the experience of a long season. A lot of rookies that were starting this year,” Ninkovich said. “Getting that in is going to help us. Having a full offseason with those guys is going to help us. I think, again, our future is definitely bright, so we’ve got to continue to be mentally strong and learn from it.”
Not bad if you don’t count when the Pats D went into “invisible mode” from the late third quarter into the early fourth when they gave up three straight touchdown drives.
Interesting quote below but let’s remember Talib hasn’t played all that much in the last two games. I think his addition has enabled them to do some new things, but I wouldn’t say he and Dennard have been the defensive saviors. What I don’t get is why they can’t be this aggressive from the get-go?
New England’s aggressive defensive play calling has paid off. Week 17’s win against Miami marked New England’s fourth straight game with an interception using added pressure. Since Aqib Talib joined the Patriots in Week 11, they have sent five or more pass rushers on 35.1 percent of dropbacks. That number has jumped from 15.0 percent over the first nine weeks of the season, the most conservative number in the league. When healthy, Talib and rookie Alfonzo Dennard have provided quality cornerback play and enabled New England to commit extra pass rushers. Since the Talib addition, the Patriots have allowed opposing quarterbacks a 51.1 completion percentage, three touchdowns and five interceptions with at least five rushers (73.6 completion percentage, four touchdowns and no interceptions in first nine games).
Good stuff on the multiple Patriots front…
The Patriots aren’t often aligned in a 3-4 front, but the principle of two-gap control hasn’t been tossed away from their defensive playbook as a result of it. On the Dolphins’ first offensive play of the game, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork engaged his blocker, rode him laterally down the line, staying square and maintaining leverage on the block before finally disengaging and wrapping up running back Reggie Bush for virtually no gain. The form was, unsurprisingly, textbook from Wilfork, and a reminder of the way the Patriots have long worked to defend the run — with discipline, technique-based defense. They aren’t a gap-shooting team, although they have incorporated more linebacker stunts against the run, which Brandon Spikes ran on the first play. The run defense starts with Wilfork, and he almost always makes it count.
- Passing defense Final rank: 29th (271.4 yards per game)
- Third-down defense Final rank: Tied 25th (82 of 205, 40.0 percent)
- Turnover differential Final rank: 1st (Plus-25 — 41 takeaways, 16 giveaways)
- Red-zone defense (based on TD percentage) Final rank: 13th (24 of 46, 52.2 percent)
Must read regular season wrap on the defense’s progression.
The Patriots improve incrementally over the course of the season because that’s the way Belichick and Patricia built it. Brick by brick.
The Patriots appeared to play a decent amount of man coverage with various forms of safety help over the top. Man coverage sometimes means a defense is daring an opposing quarterback to beat it by making throws into tight windows, which Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne did. Of note, Jacksonville worked the middle of the field with horizontal crossing patterns, which work well against man coverage to create natural picks and confusion in the secondary. On one such crossing route, Cecil Shorts III took in a pass for a first down, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower appeared to pull up before the play was over. That was an odd lapse in effort. One more component to man coverage defense: It often allows an offense to single up on its blocking schemes, which is exactly what happened on a couple of chunk runs. The Jaguars were able to put a hat-on-a-hat and create space for Montell Owens. Overall, the drive was about Jacksonville executing in a deliberate manner — there wasn’t a big play, coverage bust, or costly penalty. It was just good offensive football, which has been a rarity for the Jaguars this season, and not very good defense from the Patriots.
This season we’ve covered plenty of reasons why the Patriots defense has struggled. Whether it was the long passes or the dependence on turnovers there was always something to point to as to why the Patriots defense was the weak link in New England’s Super Bowl dreams.
But after Monday night’s dominating win it looks like the Patriots defense is finally coming together in a way that has not been seen in a long time. Sure, the Patriots have put their best football together after Thanksgiving the last couple years, but this season is different.
The Patriots are 21-0 in December going back to 2010, and stats like this paint a broad picture of why:
In the first half of 2010, the Patriots surrendered 198 points, or an average of 24.7 per game. Over the final eight games, they reduced that number to 105 points or 13.1 per game.
That trend continued last season. After giving up 184 points (or an average of 23 per game) in the first half of the season, they reduced those numbers to 158 points and a 19.7 average.
However this notion that the Patriots defense suddenly becomes lock down down the stretch is somewhat misleading. In the last two years the Patriots have faced only two top-10 offenses, and both of those had back up quarterbacks at the helm, 2010 vs. the Packers and Matt Matt Flynn and 2011 vs. the Eagles and Vince Young.
Otherwise the Patriots faced offenses ranked an average of 21st both in 2010 and 2011, with average records of 7-9 (2010) and 5-11 (2011). Not exactly the kind of teams that you prove your defense against.