- The New England Patriots are one of two remaining undefeated teams as we near the halfway point of the NFL season, thanks in large part to a historically great defence.
- On Monday night, the Patriots put up their most dominant defensive performance yet, shutting out the New York Jets and forcing five turnovers out of quarterback Sam Darnold.
- The Patriots success has been a team effort, masterminded by head coach Bill Belichick, who took the reins of the defence after the departure of former defensive coordinator Brian Flores.
- After their 7-0 start, it’s impossible to think of the Patriots as anything other than Super Bowl favourites.
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The New England Patriots are once again the most dominant team in football.
This sentiment has been true, more or less, for the past two decades. However, nearly halfway through the 2019 season, this year’s Patriots haven’t been defined by Tom Brady and a systematic, unstoppable offence, but rather by their historically suffocating defence.
The Patriots have not allowed more than 14 points all season and have held opponents to a touchdown or less in four of seven games. On Monday, the Patriots shut out the Jets in New York, 33-0, in a game that wasn’t even that close.
It was New England’s second 30-point road shutout of the season, having already scored a 43-0 win over the Dolphins in Week 2. According to Elias Sports, only the 1942 Chicago Bears have ever recorded two such shutouts in the same season.
The Patriots defence put up a Monday night masterpiece against the Jets, tormenting Sam Darnold throughout the game.
Monday night’s deconstruction of the Jets was a flawless performance from the Patriots. The defence refused to let Sam Darnold get comfortable, forcing four interceptions and one fumble out of the young quarterback.
At times, it seemed like the Patriots were toying with Darnold. New England repeatedly threw Cover 0 defences at him, all but daring the Jets to beat them through the air and forcing Darnold into awful decisions time and time again.
The @patriots Cov 0 blitz package is historic and generational to me. It made @nyjets QB see “GHOSTS” last night & this is why. You would too, and Sam isn’t alone… @mikegiardi @richcimini @briancoz @patsfans @getupespn @damienwoody pic.twitter.com/22ZzeMpIUJ
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) October 22, 2019
The Patriots mixed things up later in the game. They showed blitz only to have their defenders drop into coverage to intercept Darnold and end the Jets’ best offensive push of the game.
Patriots running cover 0 all game, then faking cover 0 with this look and dropping 7 is the ultimate older brother “why you flinching?!” move. pic.twitter.com/Y1eUKbSgZ6
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 22, 2019
When the game finally ended, the Patriots had held the Jets to just 167 yards of total offence and held Darnold’s quarterback to 11 of 32 passes and a ghastly 3.6 rating.
“Seeing ghosts,” said Darnold on the Jets sideline while mic’d up for the game.
In that, Darnold is not alone.
The Patriots defence has been this good all season, in part thanks to Bill Belichick once again running the show.
The dominance of the Patriots defence hasn’t been contained to one or two games this year. Instead, it’s been a sustained, week-after-week assault on opposing quarterbacks, resulting in a remarkable turnover rate and setting up Brady and the New England offence with short fields and easy scores.
The Patriots have a whopping 18 interceptions so far this season, twice as many as the next leading defence in the NFL, and sport a +14 turnover differential through their first seven games of the year. Making things especially tough on their division, they’re the only team in the AFC East with a positive turnover differential.
Much of the credit has to go to head coach Bill Belichick. After the departure of former defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Belichick took over the Patriots defence.
Belichick has been engaged and could be seen coaching up his defence even after they had already jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the first half against the Jets.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 22, 2019
Belichick’s results have been undeniable.
So far this season, the Patriots defence as scored more points than they have given up on the field.
While the Patriots **defense** has been on the field this season, the Patriots have scored 20 points and allowed 18 points.
New England's allowed 3 TDs to opposing offenses, scored 3 TDs on defense, and scored a safety.
— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) October 22, 2019
The Patriots’ success has stemmed from a team effort united in the goal of making life miserable for opponents. Five players already have multiple interceptions on the season, with Devin McCourty leading the way with five. Eight players have multiple tackles for loss, with Jamie Collins Sr. topping the Patriots with nine.
At every level, the Patriots have someone that can present a unique problem to offences hoping to contain them, and the result has been a comprehensive and unrelenting defensive unit.
It’s enough to make even Belichick smile … almost.
This is how Belichick celebrates the crushing of a franchise he loathes. pic.twitter.com/frqM87ciZC
— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) October 22, 2019
Some might argue that the Patriots have yet to face a real challenge on their schedule, and there is some truth to that – upcoming games against the Ravens, Cowboys, and Texans should give us a better idea of how their defence translates against better competition.
But you can only play the teams that are in front of you, and so far, no one has been able to do a thing against the most dominant unit in the NFL.
Oh, and on top of all of that, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady.
While the Patriots’ success this year can mostly be attributed to their defence, the New England offence is still a force despite the fact that Tom Brady likely has less talent surrounding him than ever before in his career.
Brady is averaging 285 passing yards a game with a receiving corps that is made up of Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Josh Gordon, and notably, without a dominant tight end.
On Tuesday morning, the New England traded for Mohamed Sanu, immediately improving Brady’s options and providing yet another reason to believe that the Patriots are all but a lock to appear in their fourth straight Super Bowl.
Between their dominant defence, unmatched coaching, and ever-reliable offence, it’s going to take a perfect game from another team to finally beat the Patriots at some point this season.
And if Belichick and the defence keep rolling as they have through the first half of the season, even that might not be enough.
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