New York, N.Y.- For too long this season, the most dominant unit in football hasn’t been getting their proper recognition. Monday night was a coming out party for this unit that finally got the attention of many around the nation. Don’t try to discredit their accomplishments by pointing to their schedule or lessen the impressiveness by pointing to flaws in opponent’s offenses instead of the strengths on their defense. Don’t do it. Folks it’s time we finally time to put some respect on the name of the defense of the New England Patriots.
The Patriots defense has statistically been the greatness defense we’ve ever seen in the Super Bowl era through the first seven games. Better than the 1985 Bears. More dominant than the 2000 Ravens or any other defensive stalwart you want to point to. For all of the times Tom Brady had to bailout this bend but don’t break defense, the script has flipped this season. It’s been the defense leading the way in support of the offense.
Monday Night Football was the latest showcase for this group of elite defenders as they intercepted Jets quarterback Sam Darnold four times, strip sacked him once and recovered a muffed punt that added up to six turnovers caused by New England. The Patriots have now taken the ball away 22 times during these seven games, an average of over three turnovers per game.
Even more impressive than their penchant for taking the ball away are their defensive passing numbers. New England has intercepted opponents 18 times so far while yielding just one passing touchdown. In a league where passing is in vogue and rules are created to benefit offenses, this seems statistically impossible.
Their scoring defense has been outstanding all season long, allowing a league-best 48 points through seven games, a mind-numbing average of 6.86 points per game. This has led to owning the best point differential at plus-175 since the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans. While the biggest knock to the Patriots success has been the schedule they’ve played, no schedule is bad enough to accidentally post a point differential record that hasn’t been topped in 100 years.
The gold standard for defense has always been viewed as the 1985 Bears. During that dominant season, that Bears defense allowed a 51.2 cumulative quarterback passer rating against them. Through seven games so far, the cumulative average rating against the Patriots defense has been 35.6. Think about the dominance it takes to best the ’85 Bears in an era that’s bred for quarterbacks.
While I can bore you to death with numbers and stats, hearing what a current quarterback says about this defense can lend credence to the point I am making. ESPN mic’d up Darnold during Monday’s game and picked up a sound bite that went viral on social media. The second year quarterback was on the bench looking perplexed after yet another turnover when he muttered how he’s “seeing ghosts” on the field.
This is a testament to not only the scheme that Belichick employs, but the disguise of it as well. Plenty of times we saw Pats defenders crowd the line with Darnold thinking their defense would be doing one thing while instead they would do something completely different. This confused his reads once the ball was snapped and had the USC graduate throwing the ball into windows where defenders were waiting. Don’t forget, this was the same quarterback that torched the Cowboys defense the previous week, throwing for 338 yards and two touchdowns.
Don’t get me wrong; the tests are coming for this vaunted Patriots defense. The next six games are against the Browns, Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs. All six teams will push the Patriots like they haven’t been pushed before.
But for now, please soak in just how historic this New England defense has been in an era dominated by offense. One touchdown pass allowed and the highest point differential in 100 years doesn’t happen by accident. I’m not projecting the Patriots to be the best defense in the history of the game once the season comes to a close. I’m just trying to bring to attention that through the first seven games, they have been.