The New England Patriots defense, by almost all accounts, has been terrible in 2017.
They’ve now given up 300+ passing yards in six games in a row, a first for the franchise. As that implies, they are 32nd in the NFL in yards surrounded per game. They’re barely better in points allowed, ranking 30th.
Pro Football Focus, a highly respected analytics site, doesn’t think there’s cause for that much doom and gloom just yet. They ranked the unit 17th in the NFL. While that’s not good and still in the bottom half of the league, it’s way higher than expected.
“For as catastrophic as some of the Patriots bottom line numbers have been, down to down this unit hasn’t been that bad,” PFF wrote, per WEEI’s Ryan Hannable. “Most of the big plays have come on complete coverage busts which, though obviously a major issue, are likely to iron themselves out over a season.”
The general idea here is that they’re blowing big plays because guys are making mistakes. That’s bad, for sure, but you can fix it if you fix those mistakes. Lock down the splash plays, and the defense improves dramatically overnight. It’s not a talent issue. It’d be worse if they were simply getting beat for significant yards on every snap, without the big plays, because then there’s nothing to fix. Then it could be a physical talent issue, not a mental issue.
The Patriots will face wide receiver Julio Jones, quarterback Matt Ryan, and the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night. If they can keep Jones, one of the best wideouts in the NFL, from having those splash plays, it could really show that they’re getting things turned around.