Every Patriots fan has a different take on the defense this year. Some say they're a work in progress, while other's say they will only slightly improve. Still others say that the entire defense could have been better by grabbing a defensive player in the first round this year, what with so many seeming to be successes (Ryan Kerrigan, J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, etc) Regardless, I did a tad bit of research and was able to substantiate the claims that, minus the tremendous amount of yards relinquished in "garbage time," the Pats are not the worst defense in the league.
I looked at the three games the Pats have won so far, and the amount of yardage the Pats have given up in the fourth quarter is absolutely astounding. I knew it was significant, especially since they're playing ultimate Prevent/Bend-Don't-Break defense, but it still is tremendous. I figured I'd dole out the information since I already had it at my disposal after looking it up. Now, these numbers by no means let the Patriots defense off the hook, but it really shows just how significant the bend-don't-break defense has been.
Note: I did not include runs by running backs in the late stages of the game, since they were so insignificant to the total amount of yards. Sort of like in Chemistry, when buffering a solution and trying to calculate the pH, and the weak base/weak acid gets completely dissolved in the strong acid/strong base and in the stoichiometric equation, the addition of the weak acid/base is less than .001 of the hydrogen ion concentration, and there's literally no difference in outcome whether you include them or not.
With 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Patriots were up 31-17, and the game was virtually out of reach with the way the Patriots offense took off in the second half. The Dolphins however, tried to stay in the game, and definitely made a game in which Brady threw for over 500 yards feel too close for comfort. Here's a breakdown of the last 9 minutes of play, specifically from the Dolphins offensive standpoint:
8:48 - 21 yard pass to Fasano
8:21 - 31 yard pass to Marshall
7:32 - 15 yard pass to Hartline
6:58 - 3 yard pass to Reggie Bush
Then, the Patriots halt the Dolphins on the goal line, giving the Patriots the ball inside the half yard line. Brady throws to Welker, 99 yard touchdown, extra point is good. The score is now 38-17, and the Dolphins get the ball back with less than 6 minutes to go.
5:39 - 23 yard pass to Bess
5:08 - 18 yard pass to Marshall
4:34 - 3 yard pass to Fasano
3:59 - 9 yard pass to Reggie Bush
3:52 - Henne scrambles for 19 yards
3:43 - 2 yard TD pass to Reggie Bush.
The score with 3:39 to go was 38-24, and after the attempted onside kick went out of bounds, the Pats would seemingly run the ball to drain the clock and end the game. But, a false start penalty coupled with an incomplete pass and a Miami timeout led the Patriots to punt the ball after only draining a minute. Miami gets the ball on their own 20, with 2:32 to go.
2:32 - 26 yard pass to Bess
2:18 - 11 yard pass to Fasano
2:00 - 11 yard run by Henne
1:12 - 11 yard run by Henne
40 - 10 yard pass to Marshall
:01 - Arrington intercepts Henne at the 5 yard line to end the game.
So as you can see, the Patriots let Henne march up and down the field three times, but they only allowed one score, and that was the 2 yard Reggie Bush touchdown grab where he broke the plane. In total, the Patriots allowed Henne 172 yards passing and 41 yards rushing in the last 8:48, so 213 yards translated into only one score, and that score came when they were already down 3 touchdowns.
If you subtract the garbage time yards from Henne's overall performance, the Patriots held him to 244 yards passing, and the Dolphins as a whole to 57 rushing yards when the game still had a chance to be won by Miami. 301 total offensive yards is a far better day for the defense than 514 yards.
The Chargers game wasn't as significant as the Miami game in terms of "garbage time" because the Chargers were in the game the whole way except for their late turnovers. But, for the sake of my own interest I took a look anyway.
Before the half, the Chargers drove down the field and Philip Rivers accumulated 54 yards passing before being intercepted by Planet Wilfork. Not significant because the Chargers were still in the game, but interesting to note because a lot of big drives this year have ended in key plays by the defense, even after getting torched for countless yards. Moving on to the numbers that actually mattered in this fanpost:
With 8:40 to go, the Patriots were up 28-14 and the Chargers started at their own 20.
8:40 - 6 yard pass to Tolbert
8:07 - 5 yard pass to Tolbert
7:25 - 14 yard pass to V. Jackson
6:51 - 18 yard pass to V. Jackson
6:19 - Rivers scrambles for 11 yards.
5:47 - 26 yard touchdown pass to V. Jackson, score now 28-21
After the VJax touchdown, the Patriots went on a 9 play, three minute forty five second drive that was capped off by a BJGE 16 yard touchdown. The Chargers got the ball back on their own 13 with 1:49 to go.
1:49 - 11 yard pass to Matthews
1:42 - 14 yard pass to Matthews
Game ends on a sack fumble by Mark Anderson, recovered by Kyle Love.
So, starting with 8:40 left and down by two touchdowns (not an insurmountable lead by any means, unless you're Mike Tolbert doing a Barry Sanders impression) the Chargers picked up 105 yards and a passing touchdown. Not as significant as the Dolphins game, but when coupled with the fact that the Patriots matched the touchdown on the very next drive, it became just another score. Philip Rivers racked up 94 yards passing in the last 8 minutes, and 11 yards rushing. Subtract those totals from his full amount, and he ends up with 284 yards passing, and the Chargers as a team rush for only 87 yards. And once again (Wilfork INT, Anderson Sack fumble, goal line stand) the defense held strong in tough situations, and let the Chargers fly down the field, picking up worthless yards.
Oakland was more towards the Miami game than the San Diego game, in terms of yards. With 13:43 left in the game, the Patriots were up 31-13, and the game was all but won (well, that's up for debate, but with the amount of costly penalties the Raiders were having, they had one foot inside a roller blade on top of a banana peal, and the other already in the grave.)
13:34 - 26 yard pass to Run DMC
12:51 - 2 yard pass to Run DMC
12:17 - 13 yard pass to Darius Heyward-Bey
10:28 - after gaining -2 yards on the ground, Jason Campbell throws the ball to the Patriots' resident black hole, Vince Wilfork, ending their drive. After exchanging punts:
8:21 - Campbell rushes for four yards
8:02 - 6 yard pass to Moore
7:17 - 6 yard pass to Moore
6:49 - Patriots force a punt
Four more minutes of driving and ending in a punt by both teams,
3:51 - Pats stop Raiders on 4th and 3
1:23 - Raiders stop Pats on 4th and 1
1:16 - 58 yard pass to Heyward-Bey
:56 - 35 yard pass to M. Bush
:34 - 6 yard passing TD to Moore, score 31-19
:34 - 2pt. Conversion fails.
So in Oakland, the Patriots let Campbell pick up 152 yards passing in the fourth quarter, and the Raiders only scored that one touchdown with half a minute to go and still down two scores. Campbell had 344 passing yards on the day, so subtract his garbage yards from that and he ends the day with 192 yards.
Now, these numbers don't really mean anything, because the fact of the matter is: The Patriots are the last ranked team in yards allowed. But when you consider that in the last half quarter of games they've let up almost 500 yards combined in their three wins, it really substantiates the sentiment that we shouldn't crucify the defense for the sole purpose of being last in the league, especially when presented with the statistic that the Pats D is ranked first overall in red zone defense. Because in Belichick's eyes, I'm sure that's the only stat (other than a W) that has any bearing. Considering the transition from a base 3-4, the injuries this defense has and will sustain, and the overall youth of the team minus the one-year acquisitions, I can see why Belichick is content with how the defense has played up to this point. It has played well enough in three quarters to give our offense a substantial enough lead where they can allow the other teams time consuming, clock killing drives that end in field goals/turnovers/goal line stands. Of course, this only works when the offense reciprocates success, because as shown in the Buffalo game, if the Patriots offense plays very poorly, the defense can't play poorly as well and expect a win. But of course, that was a rare occasion in which Brady threw 4 picks. Clearly that's a once in a very blue moon type of occurrence. Hopefully soon enough the Patriot defense will begin to play better and more fluidly, and we'll see more teams failing to move the ball even in the fourth quarter, than putting up these mind boggling numbers here.