Fun Fact: if you ever get a chance to go to Nissan Stadium, where the Titans play in Nashville, Tennessee, you'll get to witness the unique treat that is radio play-by-play announcer Mike Keith screaming "SAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!" in a way that's almost a dead ringer for Howard Dean's infamous "BYAAAAAAAAAAH!!!" from the 2004 elections. Coincidentally (or actually, probably not), it's also extremely similar to Dave Chappelle's impression of Howard Dean screaming "BYAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"
Good thing Mike calls plays for the Titans, and not for the Patriots, because if he did, he might be bummed out about how his chances to scream "SAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!" at stadium-shaking volume would be few and far between.
Except for this week, anyway - the Patriots put poor rookie Rams quarterback Jared Goff's butt on the ground four times, with ex-Ram Chris Long logging one sack and two quarterback hits against the team that wasted the prime of his career. Pretty good day for the Patriots defense, overall! Four sacks, two picks, a pathetic 162 total yards allowed, and, of course, holding the Rams to just 10 points.
That didn't stop ESPN from calling New England's pass rush their biggest weakness this morning, though. In a piece called "Contender Kryptonite: Weaknesses of Likely Playoff Teams", NFL stat guru Bill Barnwell says the Pats' lack of sacks could be a bit of a problem down the line:
"Hey, see a trend developing? The Patriots have a problem getting after the quarterback as well, and it's the biggest reason why their defense ranked 28th against the pass before comfortably handling the Rams and rookie quarterback Jared Goff on Sunday."
Ok, so, yeah, the Pats haven't exactly been burning up the stat sheet in the sack column, but it's Bill's next point that should cheer Patriots Nation up - New England's pressuring quarterbacks plenty, they just haven't been able to lay the lumber in time. Check it out:
"To some extent, the Patriots have been unlucky. They were getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but it wasn't turning into sacks. Before Sunday, the Patriots were 12th in the league in pressure rate, but 24th in sack rate. When they did get pressure, they turned just 17.3 percent of those opportunities into sacks, which ranked 29th in the league. Against the Rams, that number jumped to 26.7 percent, fifth in the league for Week 13."
TL;DR - the pass rush is getting in there, but so far, opposing quarterbacks have been pretty good at unloading the ball before they get laid out.
And that's with Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins gone, obviously.
It's also worth noting, as several of the fine folks here at the Pulpit have before, that Belichick and Patricia's defense isn't really an "attacking" defense that'll rack up sacks by blitzing the heck out of opponents like, say, the Arizona Cardinals or the New York Jets, who are learning the hard way that zero-blitzing every other down doesn't work quite as well when you have an older and possibly cranky Darrelle Revis getting barbecued by, well, just about everybody. Everyone's heard about New England's defense famously operating based on the idea of "bend, don't break", and it's still true. Instead of high-risk, high-reward-style defensive play-calling, the Pats are usually content to give up some dink and dunk throws, as long as the big plays aren't made.
And for as much as people have been whining about the Patriots not blowing up the other team's quarterback, after this weekend, they jumped up to a tidy 14th in the league in sacks, with 26. And let's all chill with the whole "They only get sacks when they play bad teams!" deal - if that's true for the Pats, that's true for everyone else that doesn't have a Destroyer of Worlds like Von Miller or Khalil Mack.
Based on what Barnwell was saying about the Patriots generating a decent amount of pressure - 12th in the NFL in quarterback pressures is no small potatoes for a league where you're up there with Denver, Arizona, and Seattle - the pint-glass-half-full way to look at that is that it's only a matter of time before pressure starts resulting in quarterbacks on the ground.
And if you're a glass-half-empty type, then hey, maybe New England can work on dialing up more plays like that sweet Logan Ryan cornerback blitz.