Patriots

Time to remove the 'yeah, buts...': Patriots defense is really this good

Time to remove the 'yeah, buts...': Patriots defense is really this good

FOXBORO – Ode to the Greatness of the Patriots defense, Volume VI.

Thursday night, they broke “The Curve.”

For a month-and-a-half, everyone’s been all “But who have they playyyyeedddddd….” And everybody else was agreeing, like, “I knooooowwwwww…”

Doesn’t matter anymore.

You may still want to chip, chip, chip away at the brilliance of the defense, pick every nit and wonder what they’d look like if they’d seen a REAL offense, but the overwhelming evidence they’ve piled up through six games has rendered the qualifiers moot.

They really are this good and their omnipotence isn’t just thanks to the poop emojis in shoulder pads that they’ve dispatched.

Opposing offenses have embarked on 74 drives against them.

Five of those drives ended with points. Three of them ended with touchdowns. The Patriots have ended five of those drives with touchdowns – two punt block TDs (including one Thursday night), two pick-sixes, one scoop and score fumble return (Kyle Van Noy on Thursday night; thanks to Disco Mike Hurley for the legwork on that.

They’ve forced 44 punts through six games. They have 14 picks and 25 sacks. Here are the pick and sack totals from the past few seasons.

2018: 18 and 30

2017: 12 and 41

2016: 13 and 34

2015: 12 and 49

2014: 16 and 40

2013: 17 and 47

2012: 20 and 37

2011: 23 and 40.

So they already have more picks in six games than they had in three of their past four seasons.

They allowed their 10th third-down conversion of the season last night (10 for 73, 13.7 percent conversion rate).

They’ve allowed four trips to get to their 20 four times in six games.

“They’re a stellar defense,” said Giants left tackle and former Patriot Nate Solder.” They got a great system and if you plug in a couple of guys that are willing to work hard and do what they’re told and are physical, they make it work. I think they have a couple special guys. (Dont’a) Hightower’s a special guy. (Jamie) Collins is a special guy and they are the versatile guys that have really made it a versatile defense. … (Kyle)Van Noy is very smart, very capable and he does a great job within the system.”

That the Patriots defense is very, very good isn’t a surprise. They were excellent at the close of last season. They lost a great player in Trey Flowers but the additions (Collins, Chase Winovich, Michael Bennett), improvements (Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Jonathan Jones) and returns (Ja’Whaun Bentley) have made this go from a very, very good defense to – I’ll say it again – a historic one.

Prior to the snap, they are extremely hard to figure out. Post-snap, their execution is so good at all three levels that it’s hard to string together enough plays to even generate first downs.

“They have players who’ve been together a really long time and understand the defense,” said Giants receiver Golden Tate.

Tate scored the first receiving touchdown of the season against the Patriots, a 64-yarder that he pulled in despite tight coverage from Jones. “What makes them tough is they can be in dime (six defensive backs) package, quarter package (four players deep, three playing zone at the linebacker level), nickel package (five DBs) against our three-receiver set, they can be in base (3-4 with four DBs). It makes it tough to identify who’s who.”

Tough for everyone. For the line to sort out who’s going to rush and who’s going to drop from the front-seven. For the quarterback to determine man or zone defense and sense whether there will be pressure (five rushers) or a blitz (six rushers). For the receivers to determine what kind of route to run since there’s so much presnap uncertainty.

And after the ball is snapped, there’s the physical element that – honestly – was lacking in past years. The health of Hightower, the growth of Collins, the athleticism of Van Noy, the presence of Gilmore, the development of Lawrence Guy, Shelton and Butler … all of it combined is having a trickle-down effect. It’s like compound interest.

“For years now – decades – they’ve been a sound team,” said Tate. “Fundamentally. All the time. That’s what makes them tough. And at the same time, they bank on the other team screwing up. You look at …. How many turnovers have they earned over the last five weeks (16 plus two blocked punts). Those guys find a way to get to the ball. Their defensive line puts pressure on the quarterback week in and week out. They’re playing very well.”

Tate played with one of the best defenses of this century in Seattle. He saw the 2014 Patriots which was a very good crew. He’s got an appreciation for football history. Could these Patriots – who’ve allowed 27 defensive points so far – be regarded as a team making history? “I suppose they could and I suppose they should. They’re playing very well together. I don’t know how to consider them but they’re playing very well and they definitely did a good job against us.”

There is and will continue to be great resistance to the notion that what the Patriots are doing this season is historic. The collection of quarterbacks, offenses and teams they've faced is just too sorry.

That's perception.

Reality is that they haven't just handled these teams, they've humiliated them. Like pros vs. college kids type domination. Attention should be paid.

To every opposing quarterback that's been bundled or is about to be, the Patriots should apologize and say, "It's not you. It's me."

Every week, there's a qualifier that downgrades what the Patriots are doing. Ben Roethlisberger was hurt. The Dolphins are trying to lose. Luke Falk is Luke Falk. Josh Allen stinks. Washington laid down. Now, it's Daniel Jones is a rookie and the Giants left their stars at home. There's a measure of truth to all of it. But even so, it shouldn't be this lopsided.

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Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy calls halftime booing by fans in Foxboro 'disrespectful'

Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy calls halftime booing by fans in Foxboro 'disrespectful'

Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy said he thought the booing of the team by Gillette Stadium fans at halftime of New England's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday was "disrespectful."

The Patriots left the field trailing 20-7 at halftime in a game they eventually lost, 23-16. It dropped the Pats to 10-3 and ended a 21-game home winning streak for New England.

"Too much booing for me," Van Noy told our Tom E. Curran in an interview on Quick Slants. "I thought it was disrespectful." 

Van Noy backtracked a bit when asked if he was bothered by the boos. 

"Why would bother me? You asked if it was a playoff atmosphere," he said, suggesting that the team wouldn't be booed in a playoff game. 

"Obviously It sucks when it doesn't go the way we want, but know that we're all trying," Van Noy said. "We're trying to put the best product on the field. We're not trying to disappoint anyone. Just imagine as a fan or a media person that our feelings are probably 100 times more. Our livelihoods are on the line and  we want to win."

Watch the full interview here on YouTube:

Quarterback Tom Brady told Jim Gray in his weekly Westwood One interview on Monday Night Football that the booing comes with the territory. 

"It won't be the last time and that's OK, it doesn't hurt our feelings," Brady said.

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Robert Kraft has brief first comment on Patriots-Bengals taping controversy

Robert Kraft has brief first comment on Patriots-Bengals taping controversy

Patriots owner Robert Kraft's first public comment on the controversy surrounding a team production crew being investigated by the NFL for allegedly taping the Cincinnati Bengals sideline during the Bengals game in Cleveland on Sunday was brief.

"You know everything you should know," Kraft said while declining to talk to reporters, including Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, after walking out of a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at previously scheduled league meetings in Dallas.  

The team released a statement Monday night acknowledging that their failure to inform the Bengals of the taping was an "unintended oversight" and admitted the video crew unknowingly broke league rules by filming the field from the press box. 

The Patriots (10-3) visit the Bengals (1-12) this Sunday in Cincinnati 

Earlier Tuesday, coach Bill Belichick again insisted he had no knowledge or involvement in what the team production crew was doing and that it's a completely independent operation from the team.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that the tape shows about eight minutes of video that's focused directly on the Bengals sideline. 

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