Kyle Van Noy On Playmaking Hot Streak For Patriots’ Surging Defense

Van Noy was one of the Patriots' top defenders Sunday


November 15, 2021

The New England Patriots’ defense has been downright dominant during the team’s current four-game winning streak, holding opponents to 13, 24, six and seven points.

And while that defensive resurgence has been a collective effort, any list of recent Patriots standouts needs to include Kyle Van Noy.

The veteran linebacker has delivered disruptive plays in all four of New England’s consecutive victories, breaking up or batting down four passes while tallying a sack and a forced fumble.

In Sunday’s 45-7 win over the Cleveland Browns, Van Noy sacked backup quarterback Case Keenum on third down, forced a fumble on a different third down and allowed three catches on three targets for 1 yard in coverage, per Pro Football Focus. PFF also classified all five of Van Noy’s tackles as “stops” — plays that result in a “failure” for the offense. His PFF grade of 90.5 was the highest of his NFL career to date.

Van Noy also came through in key moments in last week’s comfortable win over the Carolina Panthers. Both of his PBUs in that game — one a batted pass at the line, the other in coverage on running back Chuba Hubbard — came on third down.

This is a relatively recent development for the 31-year-old Van Noy, who was largely invisible early this season after returning from a one-year stint with the Miami Dolphins. He seemed to acknowledge those September struggles in tweets to NFL analysts Brian Baldinger and Dan Orlovsky.

“Sorry it took longer than usual this year,” he tweeted at Baldinger, who spotlighted the Van Noy punch-out that popped the ball out of Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson’s hands.

What’s changed? According to Van Noy, he’s “finally getting healthy.” He missed the Patriots’ Week 2 win over the New York Jets with a throat injury and has been limited in most of the team’s practices this season with a lingering groin issue.

Van Noy has not been a full practice participant since Sept. 24, per the Patriots’ regular injury reports.

Van Noy also has taken on a different role in the Patriots’ defense in his first year back in Foxboro.

In 2019, when he led New England’s fearsome “Boogeymen” D in QB pressures by a wide margin, he rushed the passer on 55.2% of his defensive snaps and dropped into coverage on just 10.6%, per PFF. Including only passing plays, his split was 83.9% pass rush and 16.1% coverage.

Through 10 weeks this season, Van Noy is rushing the passer on just 21.8% of his snaps and dropping into coverage on 44.7%. On passing plays, it’s 32.8% pass rush, 67.2% coverage.

It makes sense, then, that Van Noy’s pass-rush numbers aren’t on par with his impressive 2019 totals. He has just nine total pressures and two sacks across nine games. But he’s performed well of late in the role he’s been asked to play. Over the last three games, he’s played 66 snaps in coverage and allowed just five catches on eight targets for 20 yards with three breakups.

Contributions like these, along with ones from players like Matthew Judon, Dont’a Hightower, Christian Barmore, J.C. Jackson, Kyle Dugger and more, have put the Patriots’ defense in elite company. They now rank second in points allowed per game, fourth in yards allowed per play, sixth in yards allowed per game and fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA entering Thursday night’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images
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