The New England Patriots’ defense is one of the best units in the NFL in terms of scoring. However, in most other statistics it is rather mediocre. During last Sunday’s 31-24 loss against the Seattle Seahawks, this was on perfect display as the Matt Patricia’s defense was inconsistent against both the pass and the rush and struggled to get off the field in key situations.
However, the unit still presents a big challenge – at least according to San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly, who will face the Patriots on Sunday. When asked about his impression of New England’s defense, Kelly was complimentary:
I think they present a lot of problems just because of the multiplicity of players like Ninkovich and Hightower [and] McClellin. There’s a lot of hybrid guys in that defense. When you look at them, they can do a lot of different things. They can rush the passer, they can drop into coverage. There’s a lot of multiplicity to the type of fronts that they play. It takes a lot of work when you prepare to play against the Patriots defense.
The key word within Kelly’s answer is "multiplicity"; especially how he uses it in regards to New England’s linebacker and edge defender corps. Even after trading Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns, the team has a lot versatile players left at the positions and – as Kelly noted – plays a variety of defensive fronts. However, as has been the case all year long, the unit and its players have failed to consistently perform.
Will this week be any different? In terms of exotic personnel usage, probably not as the team will likely not plan on going into the depths of the playbook against a 1-8 opponent. But it will be another chance to build chemistry within the defense to eliminate the mental errors that plagued the unit against the Seahawks – and thus another step to further improve the "multiplicity" Kelly talked about.