The New England Patriots currently rank 3rd in the NFL in points allowed per game with 18.0 PAPG. They are one touchdown over the course of the entire season behind the 1st place Seattle Seahawks (17.3 PAPG). This is an indicator that the Patriots defense is potentially elite.
The eye test clearly tells a different story as the Patriots have struggled at times against the dregs of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks due to poor execution and uncreative schemes.
An underrated reason for the Patriots low defensive scoring average is simply the pace of the game. The Patriots have seen the 4th fewest drives on defense in the entire league (108), ahead of only the Packers (107), Washington (104), Cowboys (101), and Lions (101).
The Patriots defensive points allowed per drive ranks 10th (1.69), which is more representative of how the defense has actually performed this season. The New England defense is not a bad unit, but they definitely aren’t one of the top five most feared groups in the NFL.
I think that the Patriots could see a big swing in fortune down the final stretch because the defense has failed to force turnovers at their historical rate. The Patriots have just 5 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries on the year. The 49ers fumbled the ball five times on Sunday, and had a 6th negated by a penalty, and the Patriots didn’t recover any of them. Only the Jaguars (7), and the Colts, Bears, and Texans (8) have fewer takeaways on the season.
Look for the Patriots defense to “all of a sudden” start reeling in their turnover opportunities and for the outlook for the defense to shift in the final weeks of the year- and that will do wonders for the team’s defensive reputation.