While the team's league-best 7-2 start can be principally attributed to the play of Tom Brady and the emergence of a new, post-Randy Moss offensive scheme, the defense has given the offense a chance to win games — despite its youth and affliction with injuries.
The Patriots may have lost Ty Warren for the season, but Vince Wilfork and the defensive line have done relatively well both against the run and in the pass rush despite such. In both statistical categories, they rank in the middle of the pack, which may not be great, but it has prevented opposing offenses from dictating the action.
Among the linebacking core, Jerod Mayo has clearly been the standout. His 105 total tackles nearly doubles the tally of Patrick Chung, the next closest Patriot. Both Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich have had great moments as well.
The secondary was perhaps dealt the most difficult hand to begin the season, with Leigh Bodden being lost for the season right after signing a big new contract. As a result, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington have had to lead a young core of cornerbacks, and they have managed decently in that pursuit. The Patriots may give up a lot of pass yards each game — nearly 300 — but they have improved as the season has gone on. The play of Chung has particularly been impactful, as have the team's 10 interceptions.
Add it all up and you have a unit that is far from elite, but is developing and giving a great offense a chance to win football games.
So, which area of the Patriots defense do you think has been the biggest surprise in 2010? Leave your thoughts below.