clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Patriots fourth-down defense makes history in 29-0 win over Lions

Related: Patriots vs. Lions: Defense pitches shutout in 29-0 New England win

The New England Patriots defense had itself a day in Week 5 against the Detroit Lions. Not only did the unit not give up a single point in the 29-0 shutout win, it also registered a pair of takeaways and had two sacks.

Most impressively, however, was its performance on fourth down. The Lions, who entered the game with some questions at the kicker position, went for it on six different occasions throughout the day. They were kept without a single conversion.

Going 0-for-6 on fourth down is quite rare. In fact, it is historically rare: no defense in NFL history has ever been able to come away on six such plays without giving up a single conversion.

“Great coaching by the staff. A good plan, well executed by the players. They have so many go-to guys, it’s hard to stop them,” said head coach Bill Belichick.

The Patriots were able to get the first of those stops early on, with their initial fourth-down stop coming on the first drive of the day. Facing a 4th-and-1, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley burst through the hole to stop running back Jamaal Williams before he was able to reach the line to gain.

The play set the tone, and was preview for what was yet to come.

After forcing an interception and a punt on the next two drives, New England’s fourth-down defense came up big again. On a 4th-and-9 from the Patriots 32-yard line, Matthew Judon chased down quarterback Jared Goff, forcing a fumble that was recovered by safety Kyle Dugger and returned 59 yards for a touchdown.

The story was more of the same in the second half. In fact, all four of the Lions’ possessions before final kneel-down to end the game saw them come up short on fourth down.

A 4th-and-2 on Detroit’s first drive of the third quarter ended with Jonathan Jones tackling wide receiverAmon-Ra St. Brown short of the sticks. Turnover on downs on No. 3.

On the next possession in the early fourth period, Goff threw incomplete for Brown — with Myles Bryant in coverage — to give the ball away on a 4th-and-goal from the New England 5-yard line. Turnover on downs on No. 4.

One drive later, running back Justin Jackson was blown up in the backfield by off-ball linebacker Raekwon McMillan. A loss of a yard, and turnover on downs No. 5.

The final Detroit drive in the late fourth quarter saw the same result. Facing a 4th-and-4, Goff attempted a deep shot into the end zone that fell incomplete. Turnover on downs No. 6.

“The big down of that was understanding, if you watched the third downs, we’re in the huddle and saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t the end, they’re going to go for it on fourth down.’ They’ve done that all year,” safety Devin McCourty said. “I think that was a big part of the preparation, everyone was ready to go after getting a third-down stop.

“I’m calling guys back in the huddle. Sometimes you get in those situations, guys are like, ‘How is it going? How...?’ We didn’t have to rush anything. We were locked in and ready to go, and we were able to execute and play good defense in those situations. Those are huge plays in the game, especially those fourth-down stop in the red area where they could kick a field goal ... That kind of kills momentum and morale.”

The Patriots were able to repeatedly win those critical downs, showing an ability to stand up while under immense pressure. For linebacker Matthew Judon, that is exactly the position he and the rest of the unit want to be in.

“As a defense you want that pressure on you, whether it’s in the fourth quarter and you need a stop or a play on fourth down,” he said after the game. “You want that pressure on you. We embrace that as a defense.”

As a result of their fourth-down success, Judon and the rest of the Patriots defense were able to keep the highest-scoring team in the league without a single point. Most importantly, they laid the foundation for New England improving to 2-3 on the year.