The conventional wisdom (and opinion of many on this board) is that NE has far and away the worst pass defense in the league. The customary ranking is based on passing yards allowed. NE ranks last with 1475 yards through 4 games.
Let's compare NE with the Dream Team Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles have given up 871 yards passing through week 4, ranking them 11th in the league. Obviously better than the embarrassingly woeful Patriots, right?
The Eagles superior pass rush (15 sacks, ranked #1) has to be a huge advantage relative to NE (6 sacks, tied for 25th). And the Eagles feature CBs Asante Samuel and Nmandi Asomugha, widely considered to be the most talented tandem in football.
Here's the surprise ending.
Opponents passer rating: Eagles 106.7 (32nd) NE 91.0 (20th)
TDs allowed: Eagles 10 (32nd) NE 7 (T 10th)
Interceptions: Eagles 2 (24th) NE 7 (T 3rd).
The Eagles have the talent and the pass rush that the Patriots lack yet the results are demonstrably worse in the most important areas.
(By the way, old friend Asante Samuel was brutal last week, giving up an easy TD to Josh Morgan and getting run over by Frank Gore for the game winning TD. This prompted a memorable (and ironic) quote from none other than Deion Sanders: "If you can't cover, you have to tackle. If you can't tackle, you have to cover. But you can't not
do both." Who still misses Asante?)
One other quick note - guess who has the 31st ranked pass defense with 1343 yards allowed. That would be the consensus best team in the league Green Bay Packers. What do they have in common with NE? They're just about always ahead.
In today's NFL, the rules are stacked against the defense. The heightened protections for QBs and "defenseless" receivers have clearly exacerbated the situation. Most teams are having trouble playing pass defense.
Things aren't always as simple as they appear. Recognizing that pass defense is definitely an area the 2011 Patriots must improve, I'm not all that convinced that the situation is as dire as many here believe.