The Patriots under Bill Belichick have never had one of the league's flashiest defenses. Throwing caution to the wind has never been the unit's MO, and keeping opponents in front of them while showing the discipline to stop the run has always worked successfully for New England.
Last year that style was so successful that the Patriots led the NFL in points allowed, and the team went on to capture its fifth Super Bowl title.
But things have changed dramatically thus far in 2017. Belichick still prefers to avoid reckless blitzing and operates under the premise of forcing opponents to methodically work the ball down the field. The problem is, so far it hasn't worked.
The Patriots are last in the league in points allowed and are at or near the bottom is many other categories as well. *The Washington Post *published a piece wondering if Belichick himself is the root of the problem, which seems a bit far-fetched but nonetheless there's no denying the defense is struggling.
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question asks: What is most responsible for the Patriots struggles on defense?
PFW's Andy Hart says...
No matter how strong any secondary is, no one can cover forever and so far the Patriots pass rush is forcing the back end to cover for far too long. The Patriots have been unable to generate any pressure on opposing quarterbacks and it's impossible to survive in the secondary under those conditions.
Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise have shown flashes of being able to get near the quarterback, but thus far that has been far too infrequent and it needs to change. It also wouldn't hurt if Dont'a Hightower got back on the field and provided some heat off the edge, as he has done in the past.
At this point the defense is having a hard time stopping opponents from moving the ball, but it all starts up front. Until the pass rush can provide some pressure, things won't get much better.
PFW's Paul Perillo...
I understand how Bill Belichick likes to play defense and it's a system that has worked well for years. The guys up front get some timely pressure and the secondary limits big plays by keeping everything in front of them. The Patriots rarely generate tons of pressure, but this year the secondary isn't holding up its end of the bargain.
New England has surrendered far too many big plays, mostly in the passing game, and that's on a secondary that was supposed to be one of the best in the league. Adding Stephon Gilmore to Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty was supposed to make things better, but that group has struggled with communication and has gotten beaten far too often.
Until the coverage improves the defense will continue to reside near the bottom. This is a passing league and if you can't cover, you can't play defense. Unfortunately for the Patriots thus far, that's been the case.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.