On Sunday afternoon in Foxboro, the New England defense looked as good as it has all year. The Pats made sure that a repeat performance of last year's playoff massacre against Baltimore would not happen again. Instead, the Patriots made a statement of their own, especially on the defensive side of the ball against one of the league's best teams.
The defense has been one of the biggest question marks facing this Patriots team this season. They're young, and like many young teams, they've been exposed at times. At some points this season, they have been downright bad defensively. Even with Sunday's stellar performance, their defensive numbers as a team are still in the lower half of the rankings.
Despite that, though, there is hope. Sunday's win saw the Patriots make some stops when they needed to, keeping their offense in it long enough to find a rhythm. Billy Cundiff hit a field goal early in the fourth quarter for the Ravens, but that was it. The New England defense held firm, holding the Ravens scoreless throughout the rest of regulation and then throughout overtime.
As easy as it was to see the improvements on display on Sunday afternoon, the most encouraging thing, perhaps, is the excitement and encouragement that the Pats themselves have at the moment.
"[We] responded well," defensive captain Vince Wilfork said after the game about his defensive comrades. "They've responded well all year, and I see no reason why it should stop. I'm excited. I'm excited about it. We're just going to keep fighting."
While the Patriots have some playmakers that will make plays regardless, that kind of confidence could be their biggest weapon going forward. They likely won't be confused for the defenses the team featured during their Super Bowl runs, but with the offense they now feature, they won't be asked to do as much.
The defense has a chance to be good, but how good can they really be?
Is the Patriots' defense good enough for them to win the Super Bowl?
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Sunday, Oct. 17: What kind of statement can the Patriots make with a win against the Ravens?