Patriots defense knows this is its time to make statement

Ryan Hannable
November 14, 2019 - 7:38 am

FOXBOROUGH — Through 10 weeks of the season, the Patriots defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL, allowing an average of 249 yards per game and 10.9 points.

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But, there’s a caveat. 

The Patriots had a very easy schedule to open the year and the last time they were on the field they allowed 37 points in a 17-point loss to the Ravens.

Following its bye week, the defense cannot wait to get back on the field this Sunday against the Eagles and put their last performance, whiched included allowing 210 yards rushing, behind them.

“Without a doubt,” safety Duron Harmon said Wednesday. “It is an opportunity to go out there and do everything we can to win. Obviously, as a defense we didn’t play the way we are capable of and wanted to play the last time. This is another good challenge going up against an explosive offense with a great quarterback and a great offensive play-caller. If we want to do anything to be better, this is a great opportunity to do it.”

For the last 10-plus days, the narrative with the unit is it is very good, but it hasn’t done anything against a good team. It’s one thing to shutout and score two defensive touchdowns against the win-less Dolphins, but another thing to dominate a playoff-caliber offense.

That is on the table over the next four games.

Beginning Sunday in Philadelphia, the Patriots’ next four opponents all are in playoff contention. Following taking on the 5-4 Eagles, the Patriots will host the 5-4 Cowboys, travel to Houston to face the 6-3 Texans, and then return home for a rematch of the AFC title game against the Chiefs.

After facing the likes of Josh Rosen, Luke Falk, Colt McCoy and Sam Darnold, New England will now be going up against Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes.

While the Patriots are certainly not looking ahead, they know what is coming.

“I would say we’re not naive to the schedule,” Harmon said. “We know the schedule has picked up. We know who we are playing, especially these next four games. Everybody is a playoff contending team. There’s no secret about it. We know what we have. 

“All we can do is take it one game at a time, one day at a time and when we get out there, one play at a time, and do everything we can to be productive and be better than we were the last time we were on the field.”

These next four weeks will determine the fate of the 2019 defense.

Either it will have quite a bit of success and prove it is deserving to be put in the category of the 2000 Ravens as one of the best statistical units in the league’s history. Or it will struggle like it did against the Ravens and just be a solid defense that does well against below average competition. 

From what we’ve seen, we’re learning towards the former. 

Despite what it showed against Baltimore, New England is stacked on the defensive side of the ball. Led by Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty, it has one of the best secondaries in the league and then tremendously talented players in the front-seven like Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Lawrence Guy and Kyle Van Noy.

The 2000 Ravens allowed 165 points all year, the fewest in NFL history. Through nine games, the Patriots have allowed 98. This means the Patriots have to allow an average of 9.6 points per game over the final seven weeks to match that total, which is doable considering games against the Bengals, Bills and Dolphins still lie ahead.

So, are the Boogeymen all that scary?

Check back in a month. We’ll have a good idea by then.

Related: Dont'a Hightower on OMF shares story of how he got to wear No. 54