2011 Final Stats: Patriots Defense Ranks 31st in the NFL

For the past month or two, Patriots fans have heard nothing but how the Patriots "have the worst defense in the NFL." More recently, the conversation has been that the Patriots have the worst defense "of all-time." While the conversation seems a bit ridiculous, it has existed nonetheless.

To me, a good defense should be ranked by points allowed, turnovers produced, third down conversion rate, and then yardage. You can also throw in time of possession and sacks. But, for many media members and pessimistic fans, saying that the Patriots had "worst defense in the NFL" or even all-time became a convenient excuse to downplay the Patriots as a real Super Bowl contender. I'm fine with the Patriots being overlooked - they were one and done in the 2010 playoffs as the "team to beat."

But I have some news for those non-believers, the "worst defense of all-time" was not even the "worst" in terms of yardage in the NFL. The Patriots ended up ranking 31st in both passing and total yardage. Who ranked 32nd? The 15-1 Green Bay Packers, who allowed 93 more passing yards and .5 total yards per game.

The thing is, I don't think the Packers actually have the worst defense in the NFL. They clearly don't. They're okay at stopping the run, can produce pressure, and like the Patriots, produce a lot of turnovers. Yet, unlike the Patriots, no one is doubting the Packers ability to make a Super Bowl run. In my opinion, this goes to show, that just because the Patriots rank poorly in total yards and admittedly aren't a very good defense, they aren't terrible and the unit will not prevent the Patriots from being a Super Bowl contender.

A Final Look at the Patriots Defensive Statistics After the Jump!

All of this being said, lets see where the Patriots ended up ranking in some key defensive stats:

Category

Statistic

NFL Rank

Total Defense YPG

411.4 YPG

31st

Passing YPG

293.9 YPG

31st

Rushing YPG

117.1 YPG

17th

Fumble Recoveries

11

T-7th

Interceptions

23

T-2nd

Total Turnovers

34

T-3rd

Sacks

40.0

14th

3rd Down Conversions

43.1%

28th

Opp. Completion %

62.4%

23rd

Opp. YPA (passing)

8.0

29th

Opp. QB Rating

86.1

20th

Rushing YPC

4.6

24th

Points Allowed

21.4 PPG

15th

What do these statistics tell us? That while the Patriots certainly weren't a good overall defense, they certainly weren't terrible. They rank in the top half of the league in points allowed and sacks, and in the top five in interceptions and total turnovers produced (7th in fumbles).

The fact of the matter is, the Patriots don't rank last in any single defensive category. Now, it seems kind of funny that I'm supporting the Patriots defense because they ranked 31st in the NFL. But let me be clear, I'm not making excuses for the unit. They have had struggles, and they need to improve, not only for the playoffs but also in 2012.

The point I'm trying to prove with this article is that while the Patriots defense does have its weaknesses, it's a group that still abides by the "bend but don't break" philosophy and it's a group that certainly isn't the worst in the NFL. The Patriots can apply pressure, create turnovers, and keep points off the board at crucial moments.

The 2011 New England Patriots are far from perfect. The defense isn't great. But, there is no way that you can say that the defense is the "worst." And in my opinion, there's no way you can say that the Patriots defense is preventing them from being Super Bowl contenders.

To conclude, lets get creative. Suppose you were General Manager of the Patriots and I gave you the choice to swap the Patriots defense for that of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who allowed nearly 75 less yards per game through the air, would you do it? I sure hope not, as the Buccaneers intercepted just 14 passes, allowed a QB rating of 97.2, and most importantly, allowed their opponents to score 30.9 points per game.

It just goes to show, that despite all the injuries and the passing yards allowed, the Patriots defense is far from the worst the NFL has to offer. And as I've said, much like the defense of the Green Bay Packers, is good enough to get the team a Super Bowl title.

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