The Patriots lost almost their entire secondary during the offseason, leaving the defense facing many questions heading into the season. With second-year corner Malcolm Butler representing the most accomplished cover man remaining, there were more than few folks who believed the defense would struggle.
That wasn't necessarily a huge concern, however, because Tom Brady and the offense figured to pick up the slack. With a bevy of weapons at his disposal, Brady was a good bet to make up for any shortcomings on defense and allow the Patriots to continue their winning ways.
That's exactly how the season opened for New England as the Patriots won early on despite allowing opponents to score 30 and 27 points in wins over Buffalo and Indianapolis. But things began to change gradually as injuries began to impact the offense and the production began to drop. Conversely, the defense has been terrific and entered Week 12 as the No. 1 scoring unit in the NFL.
Suddenly, the defense wasn't just a complementary part of the Patriots success. But can it continue, even if the offense continues to struggle?
That's where we're focusing this week for our Samsonite Make Your Case question this week: Is the Patriots defense capable to winning games for the offense?
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Throughout the offseason and even into the start of the regular season I was quite skeptical of the defense. I wasn't convinced a strong front seven could make up for a weak secondary and hold teams in check for long stretches of time.
But as the season has progressed that's exactly what's happening and I see no reason why that can't continue. Malcolm Butler has been solid as the No. 1 corner and the front is stopping the run and putting heat on the passer well enough to cover for any other deficiencies.
Through 11 weeks of football nobody allowed fewer points than the 182 surrendered by the Patriots. Even if the offense continues to search for answers and the production drops, the defense is capable to steadying the ship. Hopefully we won't have to find out the answer to this question, but I now have faith that the defense can be more than just along for the ride.
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Every week I watch the Patriots play and the opponent has receivers open all over the field only to have the quarterback fail to take advantage. On the few occasions when they've faced a competent quarterback – like Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger - the opponent has enjoyed plenty of success.
The good news is the Patriots won't face many quarterbacks with the ability to inflict much damage. But in the playoffs there will come a time when the offense will struggle and the defense will need to win a game against a quality offense. I'm not sure I'm ready to say that will happen in such a scenario.
I will admit that I've been pleasantly surprised by the defense's ability to stop the run, but until the secondary can improve I'll be concerned about the passing game. At some point the quarterback won't miss those throws and when that happens, the offense will have to pick up the slack.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.