If you are looking for a new magic number to help determine the Patriots success, try using 40, as in the total number of sacks and interceptions the defense came up for the year.
The Patriots have gone six complete seasons with less than 40 sacks/interceptions. The team had a losing record in each of those years, including this season's 5-11 mark. The only time the team had less than 40 sacks/interceptions and still managed a winning record was during the strike season of 1982. That year the Patriots had 12 interceptions and 20 sacks in just nine games, posting a 5-4 record.
Given the low totals provided by the pass rush this season, the Patriots would like to improve the area this offseason. Besides posting just 29 sacks, New England also had just 10 interceptions, its lowest total in a 16-game schedule. These numbers are telling, because the less time an opposing quarterback has to find an open receiver, the easier it is for a defender to be in position to make a play on a ball.
During the best year's in team history, the Patriots sack/interception total has provided an indication of success. In all nine years New England has made the postseason, the defense has come up with a combination of at least 56 sacks and interceptions. The best defensive numbers came back in 1963, when the team had 29 interceptions and 46 sacks in just 14 games.