The New England Patriots held opponents to an average of 18.5 points per game, which is the fourth-straight year the team has limited opposing teams to less than 20 points per game. They are the only team in the NFL to achieve that feat in each of the past four seasons.
Count Patriots free safety Devin McCourty as someone who is surprised by that fact.
“Wait, say that [again]?,” McCourty said when presented with that fact. “What did we do? [...] You’ve got to realize, I’m not used to – you know, earlier in the season, you guys would come in here asking me about giving up 35 points a game. So, you hear 20 [points per game]…”
The Patriots defense had been considered one of the worst in the league over the first four weeks of the year, but they finished the season ranking fifth in points allowed, the sixth-straight season with a top 10 defense by points allowed and 11th time out of the past 12 seasons.
“I think the thing is we put a big emphasis on the red area and points,” McCourty said. “At the end of the day, when you have more points than the other team, you win. So, defensively, it’s all about not giving up touchdowns. It’s about trying to keep them off the board. We’ve seen in games where we haven’t kind of played the way we want to play throughout the game, but if we were able to play well in the red area, we kept giving ourselves a chance to win the game.”
The Patriots are known for the “bend-don’t-break” style of defense that defies advanced stats for its annual consistency and this season is no different. Both sides of the ball understand that football is complementary game and if the defense can hold the opposing team to 3 or 0 points after making a trip to the red zone, the offense will be able to score enough on their opportunities to win the game.
New England ranks second in the NFL in points allowed over the past four seasons, behind only the Seattle Seahawks, and they’re joined by the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs as the only teams to hold opponents to an average of 20 or fewer points over the past four years.
The Patriots have an enormous lead over any other team in point differential, averaging 4.3 points better than the second-place Seahawks, an indication of how well-rounded the team is over the span of the season.
New England lead the NFL in point differential in 2017 and for the third time over the past four seasons. The other two? 2014 and 2016. Let’s hope the 2017 Patriots finish the year with the same outcome.