No team is going to want to face this New England Patriots defense in December or January.
That’s been one of the biggest takeaways from New England’s current winning streak, which reached five games Thursday night with a 25-0 waxing of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Consecutive victory No. 5 was another defensive masterclass by the Patriots. They dominated a depleted Falcons offense, overwhelming their O-line and smothering quarterback Matt Ryan en route to their first shutout of the season.
The Patriots sacked Ryan four times, landed 12 QB hits and intercepted four passes — two from Ryan and one from each of his backups, Josh Rosen and Feleipe Franks — with linebacker Kyle Van Noy returning Rosen’s for a touchdown. The Falcons managed just 165 yards of total offense.
Top cornerback J.C. Jackson pulled down the second New England pick, snuffing out Atlanta’s last realistic hope for a late-game comeback. After the game, he said the Patriots deserve to be recognized as one of the NFL’s elite defenses.
“I don’t want to brag too much, but I feel like we’ve got one of the best defenses in the league right now,” Jackson told reporters. “… We’ve got a good pass rush. We’ve got some guys up front who are doing pretty good this season. The secondary has always been pretty good, and we’re starting to build that chemistry defensively.”
He’s not wrong. That’s not bravado.
Even before Thursday’s manhandling, the Patriots ranked second in the NFL in scoring defense, sixth in total defense, fourth in yards allowed per play, seventh in red-zone defense, fifth in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA and tied for second in interceptions. Their defense hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in regulation in any game this season.
The 7-4 Patriots are outscoring opponents 175-50 during their five-game win streak. In the last two weeks, it’s 70-7. And Jackson believes they can get even better as they continue their unexpected surge toward the top of the AFC standings.
“I feel like we played great defensively (Thursday night),” the fourth-year cover man said. “We didn’t give up no touchdowns, no points allowed. It don’t get no better than that. … The defense played outstanding. I can’t even describe. But we’ve got to keep it up. It’s going to get scary. It’s going to be scary.”
“Outstanding” would be a good word to describe Jackson’s play of late, too. Over the last three games — wins over the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and Falcons — he’s allowed two catches on 12 targets for 9 yards with three INTs (including one pick-six) and two pass breakups.
Bumped up to No. 1 cornerback status following Stephon Gilmore’s injury and subsequent trade, Jackson leads all NFL players in interceptions both this season (six) and since he entered the NFL in 2018 (23). The 26-year-old has set himself up for a big-time payday as he prepares to hit free agency for the first time.