The New England Patriots defense has played some solid football through the first four weeks of the season. However, a major weakness has emerged the last two games: defending the run.
After giving up 188 yards on the ground against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, the Patriots surrendered 199 versus the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Needless to say that the team’s defense need to get better in this area, and they know it.
“Everything starts with stopping the run,” safety Adrian Phillips told reporters on Monday.
“We obviously want to do better stopping the run, because if we can make the offense one-dimensional it’s a lot easier for us. That’s when we really get to spin and dial, and send whatever we got. So, we have to be able to stop the run on early downs to get them in third-and-long situations.”
One week after allowing Lamar Jackson to run wild, the Patriots failed at slowing down the Packers’ two-headed monster of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. The duo combined to gain 183 yards on just 33 carries — an average of 5.5 yards per attempt.
Missing big-bodied defensive tackle Lawrence Guy due to a shoulder injury obviously hurt the Patriots, but they also saw disappointing performances across the board. The defensive line (outside of a quite solid Davon Godchaux) allowed holes to open up, while Green Bay successfully exploited the lack of speed provided by off-ball linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai.
Tavai, of course, entered the regular lineup after Mack Wilson was benched. Fellow linebacker Raekwon McMillan saw no snaps on defense; the Patriots have since also added free agent Jamie Collins to the mix.
How they will proceed moving forward remains to be seen, but the recipe so far has not yielded the desired results. The Patriots are ranked 29th in the NFL in yards given up per rushing attempt (5.1) and expected points added (0.119), while also ranking 31st in DVOA (13.5%).
Phillips pointed out that stopping the run would not be the only issue that will have to be addressed. It is the most glaring one, though.
“We can always get better at getting the ball. We got two turnovers this game, but there were probably two or three opportunities that we left out there. We’re always looking to get better in every aspect of our game.” he said.
“But one thing that we make sure that we need to get better at right now is stopping the run, because our defense is built on stopping the run.”