Maybe i'm just a fan, blinded by my homerism. But after some deep thinking (and drinking) this week, i'm glass-half-full optimistic about this defense. This defense is not nearly as bad as everyone thinks. Why? The old adage that "stats don't lie" is baloney. Grade A baloney. Stats don't lie per say, but there is always an explanation behind them. Here is why the pats defense is actually quietly decent, with very much room for improvement.
First of all, yards against are misleading. While it sucks be be 32nd in the league in anything, let's put this in perspective. Even the one loss on the pats record dealt with a 21-0 lead at one point. In all the other contests, the pats held generous leads throughout every game. Big leads cause teams to air it out, sucking up large amounts of yardage. When the leads are this large, the pats can afford to give up bigger chunks of yardage. While it's concerning that other offenses seem to move up and down the field with ease, it's easy to forget that when that happens the pats normally already have a 2 score lead.
Another big reason for the more yardage against is that the pats are #1 in opponents starting field position. The NFL average starting position for a team is about the 28 yardline, and for the pats it is just under the 21 yard line (20.88). That's an additional 8 yards per drive that the patriots can afford to give up that the average team can't. Multiply that by the average of 11.5 drives per game, and you're talking about almost 100 extra yards the patriots can give up. I imagine this stat has a lot to do with the fact that field position is always in the pats favor as the offense consistently drives down the field, and rarely has a 3 and out, giving the opposition more field to cover. Why is this a bad thing?
Secondly, red zone defense. Did you know that the pats are #1 in red zone defense according to opposing QB rating? That's right. While they are a horrid 32nd behind the 20, once the red zone comes in, the pats sit atop the standings alone with an opponent QBR of 3.6. 3.6!!. This has been largely unnoticed due to the massive amounts of yards given up by the pats. And we wonder why Belichick keeps complimenting his defense despite the idea that they've been horrible.
Third, new scheme and players. This offseason was short. Really short. It's not just the pats, but every defense around the league seems to be steps behind the offenses. As much as everyone is loving green bay right now, they are giving up almost as much yardage as the pats. With an altering scheme (supposedly 4-3, more attacking than the 3-4 read/react of pats years), the players just havne't gotten comfortable with it (or each other yet). Not to mention the number of starting defenders that weren't significant contributors last year (haynesworth, carter, ellis, dowling, barrett, brown, bodden, etc)? This will take time my friends.
Finally, the injuries. No, injuries are not an excuse and are part of the game. My point is that they can slow development, cohesiveness, and playmaking. has anyone had a more ravaged defense than the pats this year? Pryor (IR), Wright (will he ever come back?), Dowling, Haynesworth, Chung, Bodden, Mayo. The pats have outstanding depth and it's pretty amazing that the defense isn't giving up 30+ points a game (like many other teams).
So are we convinced that the pats defense might not be as bad as advertised? I am. If i trust anyone to make corrections and have the team improve throughout the season, it's BB. And as long as Brady is healthy and the offense is scoring 30 ppg, this defense can give up as many yards as it wants as long as it's good in the red zone and creating turnovers.
Also, blind confidence perhaps but the jets game doesn't scare me. I remember 45-3 like yesterday. Of course, i don't see a repeat, but the Jets played a perfect playoff game, the patriots made several mental errors and turned the ball over, and we lost by a touchdown. Putting things in perspective, i see a 30-17 victory.