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2018 Patriots run defense is one of the best in NFL playoff history

They’re in some incredible company.

Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The New England Patriots run defense played a terrible stretch from week 13-15 of the regular season, when they allowed the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers to run up and down the field.

Well, whatever the Patriots did to fix that problem- a mix of schematic changes on the defensive line and improved play by the linebackers- worked out for the playoffs as New England just capped off one of the most impressive stretches of run defense in NFL history.

The 2018 Patriots allowed 122 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 40 attempts (3.05 YPC) and those 122 yards mark the third-fewest allowed by a Super Bowl champion in NFL history.

The 1986 New York Giants and the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers allowed a mere 121 rushing yards in their journeys to winning the Super Bowl. That Steelers defense is one of the best in NFL history, while that Giants team featured a young defensive coordinator by the name of Bill Belichick.

And then there’s the 2018 Patriots, edging out the historic 1985 Chicago Bears (125 rushing yards allowed).

That’s some incredible company and the Patriots did it against some of the best rushing attacks in the NFL.

The Los Angeles Chargers ranked 6th in rushing DVOA this year and the Kansas City Chiefs ranked 4th. The Los Angeles Rams ranked 1st by a wide margin. Chargers RB Melvin Gordon is a Pro Bowler and Rams RB Todd Gurley is a three-time All Pro.

These three opponents ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in offensive DVOA, too.

So while, yes, the Patriots were able to build up a big lead against the Chargers and remove their rushing attack from the game plan, I would argue that the Patriots were able to build such a lead because the run defense executed at such a high level. In every game it felt like the run defense stuffed the opposition and forced second- and third-and-long situations, where the secondary could smother the receivers and the pass rush could disrupt the quarterback.

This Patriots defense didn’t get a lot of credit this year. But they’ve cemented their position alongside the greats with one of the most impressive playoff runs in NFL history.