Entering the 2017 season, the New England Patriots were 139-9 under head coach Bill Belichick when they scored at least 27 points. Even though the team has been able to put up more than 27 during each of its four games this year, the results have been distinctly different as the Patriots find themselves at 2-2 right now – and the defense is a big part of that.
Yesterday against versus the Carolina Panthers, the unit had yet another bad outing. Matt Patricia's defense gave up 33 points and 444 yards to a team that averaged only 19 points and 276.6 yards per game heading into the contest. New England's offense, on the other hand, was solid once more and helped the team rally back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
With the game tied at 30, however, the Patriots defense, which forced only one punt all game long, allowed the Panthers to march into game-winning field goal territory. “Our offense played great last week and bailed us out,” defensive captain Devin McCourty noted after the contest: “They played great again this week, and we [the defense] let them down,” he said before later adding: “We've been putting our offense in a shootout every week.”
McCourty knows the current deal and after yesterday's game did not mince his words: “We're letting our team down,” he said. “If we can't play somewhat decent defense; it's going to be hard to win games.” So far this season, the Patriots' defensive play has not been decent as fellow captain Duron Harmon knows as well: “What we're doing is not good enough.”
“We need to go take a look in the mirror tonight and just look and realize,” the 26-year old noted. “Are we doing enough to win? Are we doing enough to be good on defense? Are we doing enough to be a sound football team? Today we weren't, especially on defense.” The question now becomes how and when the unit will be able to bounce back especially a) with some glaring communication issues at hand and b) on a short week.
“It'll take time,” cornerback Stephon Gilmore pointed out before adding that the defense knows what it had to do to turn things around. Fellow cornerback Malcolm Butler echoed Gilmore's thoughts: “Basically, everybody's not on the same page. We've just got to stick together, keep working hard and keep communicating. It starts in practice. We'll get it done.”
“There needs to be a sense of urgency right now,” Butler said. “A quarter of the season is gone away already and it's time to pick it up.” On Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defense will have another chance to “pick it up” – and another chance to prove that the work put into trying to get better as a whole is indeed paying off.
“It's frustrating because we do put a lot of work into it,” Harmon said after the game yesterday before adding that it obviously was not enough so far: ”We need to go really look at ourselves tonight and we need to come in with a better attitude tomorrow. An attitude to work and do more.” So far, it appears, the mindset is a reflective but still positive one. Let's see how it will look like in four days.