We’re thirteen weeks into this season and Monday night’s performance makes you wonder if we could finally be on the verge of seeing the start of a new era on the defensive side of the football here in New England.

They’ve been utterly amazing in recent weeks, and their display against the Texans was yet another example.  They completely shut down the Texans running game, and did it in spectacular fashion.  And it’s not like the running game was a weakness for Houston.  Arian Foster is the AFC’s second leading rusher and he also leads the Conference in rushing touchdowns, of which he managed to add one Monday night.

But for the most part the ground game wasn’t a factor, and largely because the Patriots defense made absolutely sure it wasn’t.  They had far and away one of their most impressive games of the season, and the numbers certainly back it up.

Of Houston’s 27 carries, 17 of them (or roughly 63%) were for less than five yards.  To to take it one step further, nearly half of that total (8) either went for a loss or for no gain.


Belichick appears to have put together a special group this season. (FILE:USPresswire)

They were swarming to the ball and were making plays all night, with the defense overall holding Houston to just 4-of-14 on 3rd down.

Head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged after the game that it was their success on the early downs that put them in tough situations.

“The players did a good job,” said Belichick.  “We had some third and longs, which was a big part of playing better on first and second down. We rushed, we covered, we tackled, I thought we were physical out there. We played a good solid football game in all three phases.”

“They did a couple of plays there early on us, but we were able to get things straightened out without too much damage getting done. That was a big interception by Devin [McCourty] to take them out of scoring zone early in the game. That was a huge play for us. But we got good play from everybody. The line, the linebackers, the secondary, they all played well.”

Looking a little closer, the Patriots defense did do a great job on the early downs against the Texans.  Of the 20 second down situations Houston faced (including plays nullified by penalties), 12 were a minimum of 2nd-and-7, while 9 were for at least 2nd-and-10 or longer.

Of the 3rd Downs they were faced with, 9 were for 3rd-and-6 or longer (including plays nullified by penalties).  All of that was because of the intensity and determination they played with on the early downs, which made it possible.

One stat worth noting and it took 13 weeks for it to happen, the Patriots finally allowed a rush for over 20 yards, which hadn’t happened all season but happened in the 3rd quarter. Ben Tate ran over left guard and picked up 23-yards, well after the game was out of reach. That was the only blemish on an otherwise stellar evening.

You can tell that there’s something different.  You can tell Belichick can see something in this lot of players and he’s actually looked during games about as energized as we’ve seen him.  He’s on the defensive sideline in between drives going over situations and the rapport he seems to have with this current group is one of the best we’ve seen in a long time.

We’re seeing a group that is just out there having fun playing together and trying to make plays and it’s a completely different team than the one we saw let games slip away earlier in the year.  

These guys clearly believe in one another and they just keep getting better. If nothing else one big thing we learned was Monday night proved they can hang with anyone and how they continue to grow in the coming weeks will ultimately play an intricate role on where they end up in the months ahead.