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Patriots D playing rushing roulette

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But the bad performances against the Dolphins, Chiefs and Jets were really, really bad performances, and taken as a group don't measure up well against past Patriots defenses.

New England allowed more than 200 yards just once last season, the 280 yards against the Broncos, that many painted as a defensive game plan against Peyton Manning's record-setting aerial attack. In 2012 the unit never allowed more than 180 yards in any one game.

Looking back at the previous 14 years of Belichick's run in New England, the defense has allowed 200 yards in multiple games in a season just three times, including this season. It hadn't happened since 2004 and 2002 was the only year of Belichick's tenure that the defense allowed more than 200 yards rushing more than twice, doing so four times that season.

So giving up a boatload of yards on the ground is kind of rarity in New England. And things won't get any easier with Mayo sidelined and Matt Forte's Bears on the horizon.

New England's Darrelle Revis-led pass defense is doing a nice job for the most part this fall, ranking No. 1 in the league. And looking ahead long-term toward the postseason it might be preferred to have a better pass defense than run unit against potential January opponents like the Broncos, Chargers and Colts.

But that doesn't mean the struggles on run defense aren't a major concern that the Patriots have to face heading toward the team's most difficult stretch of schedule.

The yards just can't come as easily on the ground moving forward as they did previously for the Jets, Chiefs and Dolphins.

"We have to coach better, we have to play better – all the things that you said, yeah," Belichick said when asked if it was a problem getting off blocks, tackling or a combination of other factors against the Jets. "I don't think it was any one thing, any one player, any one play, any one scheme. It was just a combination of things. We just didn't do things well. Sometimes it was technique stuff. We have to coach better; all of it. Put it on me."

Wilfork, the man literally at the center of everything New England does on run defense, has confidence that the early-season struggles aren't going to stick around for the long haul.

"That's the one thing that I'm disappointed in," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said after the Jets win. "We will fix it, we always do and hopefully we can get this thing rolling consistently."

Because allowing teams to run so successfully is a recipe for disaster, even in a league where success is so often rooted in the passing game.

The NFL is a passing league. But stopping the run is still major measure of overall defensive success and it's an area in which the Patriots have had some major problems through the first seven games of 2014.

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Overall Bill Belichick's team sports the NFL's No. 24 rush defense. New England is allowing opponents an average of 4.4 yards per carry and 126.3 yards per game.

Allowing the Jets to pile up 218 yards on 43 attempts in the Patriots just-good-enough-to-win performance last Thursday night was the low point in the run defense to date, but not nearly the only suspect performance.

While New York and Chris Ivory found their success against a unit playing its first game without Pro Bowl middle linebacker and coach-on-the-field Jerod Mayo, there have been other inept performances against the run early this season.

Knowshon Moreno and Miami got things rolling on opening day with 191 yards on 38 carries for 5-yard average. Then the Monday night debacle in Kansas City saw Jamaal Charles and company churn out 207 yards on 38 attempts for a 5.4-yard average.

To be fair, the rush defense has done its job at times this season, often against questionable competition. The unit held the Adrian Peterson-less Vikings in check. The Maurice Jones-Drew-less Raiders too. Cincinnati and Buffalo weren't undermanned, they just struggled to run the ball at Vince Wilfork and friends.

710x380-20141021-andy-d-blog.jpg

But the bad performances against the Dolphins, Chiefs and Jets were really, really bad performances, and taken as a group don't measure up well against past Patriots defenses.

New England allowed more than 200 yards just once last season, the 280 yards against the Broncos, that many painted as a defensive game plan against Peyton Manning's record-setting aerial attack. In 2012 the unit never allowed more than 180 yards in any one game.

Looking back at the previous 14 years of Belichick's run in New England, the defense has allowed 200 yards in multiple games in a season just three times, including this season. It hadn't happened since 2004 and 2002 was the only year of Belichick's tenure that the defense allowed more than 200 yards rushing more than twice, doing so four times that season.

So giving up a boatload of yards on the ground is kind of rarity in New England. And things won't get any easier with Mayo sidelined and Matt Forte's Bears on the horizon.

New England's Darrelle Revis-led pass defense is doing a nice job for the most part this fall, ranking No. 1 in the league. And looking ahead long-term toward the postseason it might be preferred to have a better pass defense than run unit against potential January opponents like the Broncos, Chargers and Colts.

But that doesn't mean the struggles on run defense aren't a major concern that the Patriots have to face heading toward the team's most difficult stretch of schedule.

The yards just can't come as easily on the ground moving forward as they did previously for the Jets, Chiefs and Dolphins.

"We have to coach better, we have to play better – all the things that you said, yeah," Belichick said when asked if it was a problem getting off blocks, tackling or a combination of other factors against the Jets. "I don't think it was any one thing, any one player, any one play, any one scheme. It was just a combination of things. We just didn't do things well. Sometimes it was technique stuff. We have to coach better; all of it. Put it on me."

Wilfork, the man literally at the center of everything New England does on run defense, has confidence that the early-season struggles aren't going to stick around for the long haul.

"That's the one thing that I'm disappointed in," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said after the Jets win. "We will fix it, we always do and hopefully we can get this thing rolling consistently."

Because allowing teams to run so successfully is a recipe for disaster, even in a league where success is so often rooted in the passing game.

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