The New England Patriots started out the 2017 season by getting blown out by the Kansas City Chiefs. The defense gave up 42 points that day, and more than 500 yards of total offense.
For the majority of the year, a poor showing in September kept them ranked as the worst defense in the NFL. That’s even while they were winning.
“For the first time this season, the Patriots are no longer ranked 32nd in Total Defense,” wrote Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “They are now 30th after Sunday’s win over the Dolphins. And they are up to 11th in points allowed. Major, major progress.”
To be fair to the Patriots, they’ve been chipping away at it for a long time. They were just so far behind after a string of bad games to open the year that they couldn’t catch up quickly.
Ranking them dead last in yards was statistically correct, but it has not reflected the way they’ve played for most of the season. They can rank far higher than 32nd on any given weekend and it still only nudges their overall ranking up a little bit since it’s averaged out.
Plus, it could be argued that points allowed is a much more important statistic than yards allowed. You can give up a lot of yards and still win, as long as you’re keeping those points off the board. The Patriots are almost in the top-10 in that regard.
They’re also getting things together at exactly the right time. Quarterback Tom Brady and the offense carried them through the rough beginning of the year. Now, as they get closer to the playoffs, they may have a top-10 scoring defense and Brady.
That’s a combination that can win a lot of games, which is clearly evident from their current 9-2 record and three-game lead in the AFC East.