The New England Patriots’ defense has been tenacious this season, allowing only 15.3 points per game, 4th-best in the entire NFL. The Patriots have stuffed opponents primarily in between the 20s, as New England’s defense struggled in the red zone during the team’s first six weeks.
The Patriots entered Week 6 with the 30th-ranked red zone defense. In 2015, the New England finished the season 15th in red zone defense, surrendering close-range scores only 56.3 percent of the time opponents entered the red zone. The Patriots allowed opponents to find end zone on 80 percent of their trips during the first six weeks of 2016.
New England’s defense found its red zone chops at Heinz Field. As the Patriots fled Pennsylvania with a 27-16 victory, Pittsburgh came away with seven points during just one in its four trips inside the 20. The Patriots even turned one of those trips into a turnover on Malcolm Butler’s first-quarter interception. Pittsburgh also missed a field goal.
Head coach Bill Belichick was obviously pleased with his team’s effort in the highly-critical area.
“Most all those plays really revolved around team defense,” Belichick said post game. “Malcolm made a good play on the interception, he kind of used his body to box out [Antonio] Brown and make the play.
“But it’s team defense. You have to stop the run. You have to make the quarterback uncomfortable. You have to get on the receivers, whether it’s man or zone. We had our moments. But certainly in the end the red area was a huge difference in the game. In a close game those points amounted to a lot. Again, team defense.”
New England will look to continue its red zone efficiency at Buffalo in Week 8.