At your Holiday gathering with out-of-town family, you could make the case to them that the 2015 Patriots have the best defense in the entire NFL.
Yes, you will initially be accused of having early onset dementia, just like Uncle Hector. But you should not be laughed out of the room.
For the first time in over a decade, the New England defense might just be better than its offense. And it might just be the best defense that this offense-obsessed league has to offer when all is said and done with this season.
Really. Who’s better? The Bengals? The Steelers had their way with them earlier this month. The Seahawks? It’s not the same defense as in years past. We know that. The Broncos? We saw what Pittsburgh did to them this past Sunday. It’s a mortal bunch.
As for the Pats, the league defensive numbers are casually friendly them The unit gives up the sixth fewest points per game in the league. It gives up the sixth fewest yards per game in the league. And it gives up the seventh fewest first downs per game in the league.
Nope, that’s not “the best” statistically, but things are absolutely trending in that direction.
The Pats didn’t allow a touchdown to the Titans until the third quarter. They didn’t allow a touchdown at all (just two field goals) to a playoff-hungry Texans team – on the road – a week prior. In the wholly bizarre loss to the Eagles, the Patriots defense forced Philly to punt in their first four drives of the game. And Philly’s first four touchdowns scored were direct results of horrid special teams or offensive gaffes.
Buffalo scored just 13 points against the Pats in Week 11. Washington scored just 10 points in Week 9. Miami scored just seven points in Week 8.
The “cause for concern” games were the Giants and Broncos games, but there are excuses to be made in each. In the Broncos game, the Pats held Denver to seven points in the first three quarters and were without the services of Mr. Everything Jamie Collins. The defense had more than done its job prior to Chris Harper’s muffed punt return in the fourth quarter – which led to Denver getting the ball at the Pats’ 36-yard line. Oh, and if the Patriots do meet the Broncos again this postseason, chances are they’ll fare much better against Mr. Osweiler. Bill Belichick now has a solid sample size of game tape to devour regarding Osweiler in the NFL. Guessing he’ll see find some inadequacies there.
As far as the Giants game? Again, no Collins, but the defense was far from embarrassing against Eli Manning and Co..
Odell Beckham Jr. had that 87-yard touchdown early on, but after that the Pats defense was locked in. The Giants did not score a touchdown in the second half and the run defense was superb throughout, limiting Rashad Jennings to 39 yards on 11 carries.
No, the Patriots don’t have any household names on their defense. But truth be told, there aren’t many household name defenders in the entire league anymore (thanks fantasy sports!). The only defensive player in the NFL who gets any air-time these days is fake lumberjack J.J. Watt. And we all know he’s the type of guy who would stick a pair of those liquid blood capsules kid vampires wear at Halloween up his nose just to get a reaction.
Know this: When healthy (the Malcom Brown-sized caveat, of course), the Pats do have the horses up and down the defensive depth chart to be considered “the best.” Malcolm Butler is tremendous. Devin McCourty is as solid as solid can be. Dont’a Hightower might be the most underrated player in the NFL and Collins could challenge him for that title. Jabaal Sheard has been a find. Akiem Hicks, too. Chandler Jones is unstoppable. Jerod Mayo is a flat-out leader. And Rob Ninkovich is invaluable.
This defense is closing in on “great” status, relative to today’s NFL.
Believe it, and don’t be afraid to say it out loud.