By: Russ Goldman
As many fans probably already know, this new revamped Patriots defense has taken its share of criticism this season. Many experts do not know if they’re good enough yet to win a Championship. Well, I like to first go by what my eyes tell me. They show me a defense that has improved, and has shown the ability to make plays in key situations. If your eyes don’t show you enough, then let’s do a little statistical comparison that might surprise you. After looking at the numbers, this same Patriots defense actually stacks up with the 2009 Super Bowl Champion Saints.
Many experts throw out the line at playoff time that “defense wins championships”. Well, that might have been true several years ago, but recently we have seen two teams win a Super Bowl ring with average defenses. The 2006 Super Bowl Champion Colts had a defense that struggled during the regular season, but stepped it up in the playoffs. Also, just last season the Saints did not have a top defense on their way to the title. Surprisingly, the 2010 Patriots defense has very similar statistics to that same New Orleans team.
I think one of the most important defensive statistics is points allowed per game. The Patriots this season ranked 8th in the NFL giving up 19.6 points per game. The ’09 Saints ranked 20th in the league giving up 21.3 points per game. Not bad for a defensive unit that’s full of rookies and young players.
Here is another statistic that might surprise you. Let’s look at total yards per game on defense. The Patriots defense ended up ranked 25th while giving up 366.5 yards per game. The ’09 Saints were also ranked 25th and gave up 357.8 yard per game.
Next, let’s look at where the teams ranked in the NFL in defensive rush and passing yards per game. The Patriots defense ranked 11th in rushing yards allowed per game, and 30th in passing yards allowed per game. The ’09 Saints defense ranked 21st in rushing yards per game, and 26th in passing yards per game.
If you want to look at statistics that show how both defenses succeeded it would have to involve turnovers. Both teams took advantage of their opponents by creating turnovers. The Patriots defense this season had 25 interceptions and recovered 11 fumbles. The 2009 Saints defense had 26 interceptions and recovered 15 fumbles. There is no question that both defenses feasted on the mistakes of their opponents. The numbers are very close between both defensive units.
A statistic that I think speaks volumes of both defenses has to be the turnover ratio. The Patriots this season had a +28 turnover ratio. The 2009 New Orleans Saints had +11 turnover ratio. There is no question that this statistic shows that even though these defenses gave up yards, they were able to offset that by getting the ball back from the offense.
It has been drilled into my head the importance of defense in the playoffs, and I believe that to an extent. I actually think you need a good defense, but not necessarily an elite defensive unit. There are other ways to win championships now. Both the Colts in 2006 and the Saints in 2009 were led by their quarterbacks who had prolific offenses. The Patriots quarterback and the offense are on that same level, and in the coming weeks we may find there is more than one way to win a Super Bowl in the modern game.
So the next time you are breaking down the Patriots chances in the playoffs and are concerned about the defense, just remember that the Patriots defense stacks up very nicely with the defending Super Bowl champion Saints defense. If the Saints found a way to win the Super Bowl with that group, why can’t the 2010 New England Patriots?