the REAL Patriots Super Bowl secret sauce

We hear all the conventional wisdom about geniuses and defensive gurus. Or on the other side we're told it was all Brady. And we're also told(falsely) to compare the current situation to Brady's rookie year, where an elite defense allowed Brady to develop slowly, nurtured and protected under the safety of the defense. But none of that applies anymore.

I am reasonably optimistic the Pats can get back to their perch on top of the league, but not by duplicating 2001 to 2008. Rather by duplicating the last decade of Brady here.

From 2009 to 2019, the Pats defense followed this pattern: they started out awful, remained awful for more than half the season, slowly improved, and by the end of the season they would reach the level of being half decent. For most teams, that would mean missing the playoffs.

That's where Brady comes in. The offense would win enough close games or would blow out enough bad teams that you make the playoffs despite a lousy defense, But once you reach the playoffs, now you run into some very elite defenses, and this means Brady and the offense needed the defense to win games. It helped that Belichick is the most experienced coach in history when it comes to playoff games.

So the formula worked: Brady gets you to the playoffs, the defense improves very slowly over the season until it is half decent by the playoffs, and then you have Belichick game planning.

Before I get to the current situation, let's go back to my statement that the defenses have been lousy since 2009. Some of you will point to several years where we were among the leaders in points allowed. That's a mirage. We played in a division with awful QB's and lousy offenses. So you always had 6 games against teams that can't score. Then you can count on New England weather to throw some snow or wind/rain events that lower scores, like the Tampa game this year. So the points allowed ends up looking better than it really is.

I'm cautious about relying on stats. For example, if your offense has you up by 21 points at the start of the 4th quarter, the opponent is going to put up a couple of hundred meaningless yards against you while you play the clock. So looking at total yards can be really deceiving.

I've watched almost every game since 1974. Memory can be deceiving, but I am quite sure that the Patriots defense from 2009 on has never been very good, except sometimes in the playoffs. Announcers used to talk a lot about the "bend but don't break" Belichick defense. But that really just is another way of saying "we can't stop anyone". The Belichick approach seemed to rely on opponents, with their mediocre QB's, making just enough mistakes to cost them the game.

But here's the thing: it all can work again! And we don't have to wait years for the offense to become elite. Mac Jones comes more prepared from college than Brady, even though Jones only played one year. Video tools are much more advanced now, so you can prepare these guys. If you have someone like Jones, who is committed to winning and putting in all the hours of work, he can become elite very quickly. Despite limited weapons, he's getting there now. The combination of an experienced OC like McDaniels, a running game, and Jones can become deadly. For some strange reason, McDaniels is underrated and even despised around here. I don't get it. I think some of it comes from fans and sports reporters not understanding that running an offense is not like playing a video game. You need a systemic approach, so there are future considerations that go into play selection.

We have a window here because of Jones being on a rookie contract. That means Belichick can spend money buying players to cover up for his inability to draft.

Still, at some point we need to have a good draft or two. You can't buy everything. The number of bust picks is alarming. Even the one possible success, Uche, is starting to look like a bust. Barmore might be their only success in many years.

But I do expect the pattern will of the last decade of Brady will continue. A very disappointing defense that becomes half decent by season's end, and an offense that wins close games. If Jones can stay healthy, they should be in the hunt all of these years. If Jones can become elite, they could contend. If Jones is not quite elite, Belichick better get someone to draft for him.

But we can also count on one big thing: most other NFL teams are a mess. Even KC, led by one of the few very good coaches, is already becoming a mess. So a healthy Jones plus Belichick should at least get us to the wild card, if not this year certainly next year. To become a contender, we'll need a very good draft...or we'll need Jones to become elite. There's a reasonably good chance one of those happens.

Let's look at next season. As far as I know, most of the key pieces on offense are under contract. None of those pieces are elite, but Brady never used to need elite pieces either. What they do have is balance. Reasonably effective RB's, TE's, OL, WR's and a fullback. And they have a good system and playcalling. There's enough there for Jones to keep the ball moving and keep scoring.

On defense, they need MAJOR infusions at LB and in the secondary. A priority is signing Jackson. Bill might not think he's worth an elite contract. Well, than he needs to sign someone like that. If not, he needs to pay Jackson.

That Bill's draft picks in the secondary are a disaster is by now legendary. Dugger looks like he might be decent, the only success in a decade of trying, and Dugger does not seem to be making the kind of leap where he'd be anywhere near All Pro.

And how many more years can you get out of Hightower, Collins, Van Noy? The secondary is older than Biden's staff.

So our best hope is that Mac Jones becomes elite, and then Bill's defenses do what they've done for a long time...struggle until the playoffs.

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