Patriots’ Defense Looking Elite After ‘Complete Domination’ Of Jets

But can it keep this up down the stretch?


Nov 21, 2022

FOXBORO, Mass. — “Complete domination.”

That’s how Deatrich Wise succinctly and accurately described what the Patriots’ defense did to Zach Wilson and the New York Jets on Sunday in a 10-3 victory at Gillette Stadium.

Just how comprehensive was New England’s defensive dominance? Consider these stats:

— The Jets had more punts (10) than Wilson had completed passes (nine).

— The Jets had as many three-and-outs (six) as first downs. Two of their six first downs came via penalty.

— The Jets finished with 103 yards of total offense, the fourth-lowest mark in franchise history.

— Jets running backs Michael Carter, James Robinson and Ty Johnson totaled 33 rushing yards on 19 carries (1.7 per attempt).

— The Jets crossed midfield on just two of their 12 possessions and ran just one play in the Patriots’ red zone: a handoff to Johnson that was stuffed for a 4-yard loss.

— The Jets had 2 yards of total offense in the second half, which head coach Robert Saleh called “dog(expletive).”

The Patriots pressured and harrassed Wilson into three interceptions in the first Pats-Jets meeting three weeks earlier, but also they allowed more than 350 passing yards in that game, including two 50-plus-yard completions and a pair of touchdown passes. On Sunday, they surrendered just 77, nearly half of which came on an underthrown 34-yard pass from Wilson to Denzel Mims. Outside of that, New York didn’t have a single play that gained more than 15 yards and had just two others that gained more than 10.

“That’s kind of what we wanted to do and wanted to establish that this game,” Wise said after the game. “We left some plays out on the field the last time we played them. Coming off the bye, we knew what we were going to get, and going to this game, we wanted to stop the run and affect the pass. And I believe we did that.”

Indeed they did. Wilson did not commit any turnovers in this Week 11 rematch but otherwise was resoundingly terrible, routinely delivering passes over the heads or at the feet of open receivers. He also had throws that should have been intercepted: one down the middle that bounced off safety Devin McCourty’s chest plate and another along the sideline that cornerback Jonathan Jones undercut.

Up front, the Patriots again put Wilson under siege, sacking him four times. Matthew Judon had 1 1/2 of those, upping his NFL-leading season total to 13. Wise and safety Kyle Dugger had one sack apiece, and linebacker Mack Wilson had a half-sack, splitting his with Judon.

“They did a great job,” head coach Bill Belichick said Monday morning on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.” “It’s really team defense and trying to contain Zach Wilson and the running game and their skill players. They have a good group of receivers and tight ends, obviously, who were very productive against us in the first game. But defensively, we were able to play good complementary football at all three levels — on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary. They had a great day for us.”

Great days have been plentiful for this Patriots’ defense.

While there have been some duds for that unit this season — most notably against Lamar Jackson in Week 3 and Justin Fields in Week 7 — they’ve now allowed just three points in back-to-back games. Overall, they’re letting up just 16.9 points per game, second-fewest in the NFL behind the Dallas Cowboys (16.7). They rank first in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, first in expected points added per play, second in points allowed per possession, second in sack rate, third in interception rate, eighth in the red zone and ninth on third downs. Just three of their 10 opponents have scored more than 20 points.

“I think that we’re resilient,” said Judon, who’s on pace to challenge the single-season NFL sack record of 22 1/2. “We have some games that it looks like we’re all traffic cones, and we have some games that we didn’t play well. But over the last few weeks, we’ve been coming to work, we’ve been talking, we’ve been communicating, and we’ve just been gelling. We’re in a groove right now, but we have to force that. We have to come back to practice, we have to come back to meetings and focus and lock in and execute.”

If the Patriots remain in that defensive groove, they’ll be a tough team to beat, regardless of how poorly their out-of-sync offense — which has scored just two touchdowns during their three-game win streak — is performing. But the road is about to get much tougher for Judon, Wise, Dugger and company.

Four of the Patriots’ final seven games are against offenses ranked in the top four in the NFL in EPA/play: two against the third-ranked Buffalo Bills in Weeks 12 and 18, and one each against the No. 4 Cincinnati Bengals and No. 2 Miami Dolphins in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively. Buffalo, Cincy and Miami also all rank in the top six in points per game.

The three outliers also boast offenses filled with top-end talent.

The Minnesota Vikings, whom the Patriots will visit this Thursday night, are shaky and shorthanded on the O-line but feature an elite wide receiver (Justin Jefferson) and an elite running back (Dalvin Cook). The Arizona Cardinals have one of the NFL’s top rushing quarterbacks in Kyler Murray (assuming he’s recovered from his hamstring injury by Week 14) and perennial Pro Bowl wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Las Vegas Raiders receiver Davante Adams was essentially unguardable during joint practices with the Patriots this summer, and Josh McDaniels’ club could get Pro Bowlers Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller back from injured reserve by the time it hosts New England in Week 15.

If the Patriots’ defense truly is one of the league’s best, it’ll soon have the chance to prove it.

“(There’s) always some things to clean up,” linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley said, “and I think that is the type of thing that keeps us going — the motivation that we could be perfect.”

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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