FOXBORO, Mass. — It might be time to start throwing around some complimentary adjectives about the New England Patriots’ defense.
The Patriots are second in the NFL in points allowed per game, and perhaps for the first time this season, the defense seems deserving of such a ranking. Though the Broncos’ offense has struggled this season, it’s still quite a feat for the Patriots to travel to Denver and allow just three points in a 16-3 win to a team that was averaging 25.3 at home entering Week 15.
The Patriots allowed 309 yards on the game, but 58 of those came in the Broncos’ final drive, which ended with a lost fumble.
The Patriots allowed 187 yards and three points in the first half before effectively dominating the Broncos’ offense in the second half. They allowed drives of 2, 4, 3, 5 and -5 yards on the Broncos’ first five possessions of the second half, all three-and-outs. They then allowed 45 yards and forced a turnover on downs midway through the fourth quarter before Denver’s final drive.
The Patriots’ defense is playing its best football of the season, and if the unit continues to play like this, it could create a scary combo with New England’s offense on another Super Bowl run.
“We’re having fun,” cornerback Logan Ryan, who logged his first interception of the season Sunday, said. “We’re moving around, switching things up, a lot of people are playing well. I think the beginning of the year, we showed we had a lot of players we didn’t really know how to really get it going, and I think now we’re using everybody for their strengths and moving everybody around. It’s hard to get a beat on what we’re doing, because we’re just switching things up well.”
Much of the defense’s success is due to key improvements by certain players and position groups. The defense’s biggest second-half burst has come through defensive lineman Trey Flowers, who increased his sack total to seven Sunday. He now has three sacks in two weeks and has recorded all seven of his sacks in his last seven games. On top of sacking Trevor Siemian twice, he also forced a third by defensive tackle Malcolm Brown.
“Trey’s outstanding. He’s one of our best players,” fellow defensive lineman Chris Long said. “He’s done it pretty much all rushing inside, which is even more impressive. There’s very few inside rushers in our game that have put up numbers like him. As far as that’s concerned, that’s something very few people think about. That would make him a pretty elite rusher from in there.”
Long isn’t the only Patriots defender with that viewpoint.
“He’s a great pass rusher,” Ryan said. “He’s so underrated, and he’s so young. He doesn’t even know how good he’s gonna be, but that kid’s special. We see it. This guy’s getting snaps at nose tackle. That’s just insane. He’s a great player. He’s definitely on an up and up in this league.”
Ryan and the Patriots’ secondary are playing well, and Brown, who notched his third sack of the season, is beginning to make more plays.
The Patriots’ defense finally is living up to its preseason potential. And it’s safe to call them a quality unit despite heavy criticism midway through the season.
Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images