KC Joyner: The Pats' defense to be most improved

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Dec 6th

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borisman

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
Agreed pretty much- that's why I was hoping for the 49ers in the Super Bowl. Winning a SB by beating Tebow, Flacco and Alex Smith would have been just an incredible amount of luck. The Pats' defense was below average, and the safeties were by far the worst unit, so it shouldn't have surprised anyone that they couldn't keep a top-tier passing offense from working the middle of the field and eating up time of possession. Every team has weaknesses, and the Pats faced pretty much their worst possible matchup in the Super Bowl.

I'd much rather have faced Alex Smith also but did you see that SF defense? They beat the crap out Eli. They also beat up many-a-QB last year.
 

BradyFTW!

Goodell sucks
PatsFans.com Supporter
Thing is no matter how good your offense is, at some point you'll have to rely on your defense to pull these games out for you. Look at some of the greatest offenses we've seen in our lifetime and how they struggled in at least one game during their playoff run:
2007 Patriots - 14 points in the SB
2004 Colts - 3 points in the divisional round :)
1999 Rams - 11 points in the NFCC

Chances are you won't build a better offense than the 3 listed. And chances are the defense will need to put together a better effort than just holding your opponent to around 20 and hoping the offense can top that. Make stops, force turnovers, get off the field. Our defense doesn't do that nearly consistently enough. And like Kontra pointed out, the blame goes on both sides of the ball. But the point is you can't count on 20+ from your offense on a weekly basis in January especially when you're not forcing turnovers and not getting off the field.

By the same token, no matter how good your defense is, sometimes your offense will have to bail you out. The 49ers had the best defense in the league last year, but New Orleans still dropped 32 points on them at home in the divisional round. No unit shuts down the opposition 100% of the time, but there is a whole lot of value in having a unit that decisively wins its battle 80% of the time rather than 60% of the time. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition.

If Welker doesn't barf on that 9-times-out-of-10 catch, the ofense holds onto the ball, runs down the clock, probably ends up with points, and essentially ends the game then and there. Which is exactly why this is one of my pet peeves: football is a game of inches, and therefore it's a game of chance. Each of the seasons where we won the SB, we were inches from losing it. each of the seasons where we lost the SB, we were inches from winning it. Anyone who wants to rewrite history to show that there's some clear narrative of cause-and-effect underlying the outcomes is welcome to do so, but they'll be wrong, because they'll dramatically overstate it.

As long as Tom Brady is playing like he plays, the offense will always be the strength of this team. People who are looking for that to change are missing the point entirely. The Pats don't need to become a defensive-oriented team, and they don't need to undergo some huge shift in defensive philosophy. They just need more talent on the defensive side of the ball so that they can get stops with marginally greater frequency. They were about 6 inches from winning the Super Bowl last season, and if they succeed in bringing more talent to the defense, then they should be the odds-on favorites to be right back there this year.
 
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ThatllMoveTheChains!!!

In the Starting Line-Up
Yes, especially if the Pats have the lead late in the 4th quarter and their defense has to go back on the field.

The Pats have turned into the 99 Rams.

Well it's a lot easier to keep a team from scoring 3 pts in 0:07 than it's to keep a team from scoring 2 pts in 14:17. The SB winning Pats teams allowed 14, 7, and 19 points in the 4th qtr and the only time they had to hold a lead was a 3 pt lead with 0:45 left.
 

BradyFTW!

Goodell sucks
PatsFans.com Supporter
I'd much rather have faced Alex Smith also but did you see that SF defense? They beat the crap out Eli. They also beat up many-a-QB last year.

True, but they also gave up 32 points to the Saints at home the week before that. No defense is unexploitable.
 
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borisman

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
True, but they also gave up 32 points to the Saints at home the week before that. No defense is unexploitable.

True, but NO was all-in that game basically from the start. So they were chucking it. That was a crazy game and NO also averaged that many points, if not more, last season.

edit: I just looked it up and NO scored 14 points in the first 3 quarters(with a thousand TO's)
 
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I'd much rather have faced Alex Smith also but did you see that SF defense? They beat the crap out Eli. They also beat up many-a-QB last year.

......yet somehow with the game on the line and the Giants offense staring at 3rd and 15........gives up a 17 yard game tying TD pass.......

A fact that seems to be very conviently overlooked when the "opinion" on a unit is preconceived.
 

KontradictioN

Probably the nicest guy on the forum
PatsFans.com Supporter
2020 Weekly NFL Picks Winner
You raise up something which is a good point about the entire BB era, without specifically meaning to. In every Patriots Super Bowl under BB, the defense has had the lead and either lost it or seen it whittled down. At some point we might want to look at why that is and wonder if it's a strategy/tactics problem.

I'd think you would also have to look at the quality of the offenses that we faced in those games as well.
 

PatsSox363804

In the Starting Line-Up
I'd think you would also have to look at the quality of the offenses that we faced in those games as well.

Yeah the Rams game in 01 it wasn't a surprise that they were able to come back. The Panthers we should have smoked but Brady threw that dumb pick in the end zone then the secondary fell apart. The Eagles never really came back as much as we let them chew up clock with a 10 point lead, that was more strategy I think.

The first Giants game was just crap luck. Eli threw the game ending INT three times and it was missed every time. Also should have been sacked on the Tyree play if not for 3 blatant holds and an in the grasp not called.

The second Giants game Eli threw a perfect ball and Manningham made a perfect catch. Sucks that BB challenged it because it wasted a time out and being only up 2 we essentially had to let them score.
 

ThatllMoveTheChains!!!

In the Starting Line-Up
Thing is no matter how good your offense is, at some point you'll have to rely on your defense to pull these games out for you. Look at some of the greatest offenses we've seen in our lifetime and how they struggled in at least one game during their playoff run:
2007 Patriots - 14 points in the SB
2004 Colts - 3 points in the divisional round :)
1999 Rams - 11 points in the NFCC

Chances are you won't build a better offense than the 3 listed. And chances are the defense will need to put together a better effort than just holding your opponent to around 20 and hoping the offense can top that. Make stops, force turnovers, get off the field. Our defense doesn't do that nearly consistently enough. And like Kontra pointed out, the blame goes on both sides of the ball. But the point is you can't count on 20+ from your offense on a weekly basis in January especially when you're not forcing turnovers and not getting off the field.

Two of those three lost. Some teams do manage to move along scoring fewer than 20 pts, but it's the exception and certainly not the rule. The last SB winner to score less than 20 pts in any PO game was none other than the Giants against the Pats. If you can't count on your offense to score 20+ against PO level competition then your odds of winning a SB are pretty slim.

In no way am I trying to say that the offense is solely to blame; the defense allowed the Giants to limit possessions and played a big role in the Pats losing the field position battle. Letting the other team average >4 mins a possession is horrible and hopefully the additions will help this. You can rightly claim all of this has a negative effect on the offense, but what people seem to turn a blind eye to is this is a double edged sword, and in the SB both units did very little to help the other out as well as coming up short in the pts department.
 

captain stone

Hall of Fame Poster
You raise up something which is a good point about the entire BB era, without specifically meaning to. In every Patriots Super Bowl under BB, the defense has had the lead and either lost it or seen it whittled down. At some point we might want to look at why that is and wonder if it's a strategy/tactics problem.

I think that part of it is the Bend But Don't Break philosophy that is finally, thankfully, ovah.

Let the dawn of Kill The QB commence.
 

Triumph

Hall of Fame Poster
Well it's a lot easier to keep a team from scoring 3 pts in 0:07 than it's to keep a team from scoring 2 pts in 14:17. The SB winning Pats teams allowed 14, 7, and 19 points in the 4th qtr and the only time they had to hold a lead was a 3 pt lead with 0:45 left.

The game winning drive in SB46 Manning completed a 38 yard pass, 2 passes for 18 yards and a 14 yard pass.

70 yards in 4 plays. Too bad the Giants defense would let Brady rack up that kind of yardage.
 

MaineMan

2nd Team Getting Their First Start
Its a big part of it. Everything about a defense goes into 3rd down D, because what you do on 1st and 2nd dictates your chances on 3rd.
BUT, the Patriots faced a total of 202 3rd down attempts, or about 12-13 a game or 3 a quarter. At 43.1% they allowed 87 conversions, or about 5 1/2 a game of abou
t 1 to 1.5 a quarter.
The #1 3rd down defense was the Cardinals at 31%.
The middle of the league was 37-38%.
If the Pats were totally average in 3rd down stops, they would have allowed 12 fewer all season, or less than 1 a game.
1 extra 3rd down conversion may or may not even lead to points.

The 87 first downs allowed on 3rd represent less than 1/4 of the total 1st downs allowed.
Playing better on 1st and 2nd down is really a much bigger issue.
It is very likely that better first and second down defense would cause at least 12 of those 3rd down chances to be from a longer distance with a lesser chance to convert, and the 3rd down D becomes average without improving itself.

Excellent analysis, but one minor quibble regarding the bolded statements.

The Pats defense allowed 370 total 1st downs, including 24 by penalty (two of which were DPI by Sergio Brown that allowed significant opposition scores, BTW). They allowed 95 conversions of 221 total 3rd and 4th down attempts (43%), meaning that they gave up 1st downs on 149 1st and 2nd down plays. So, if the defense plays better on 1st and 2nd downs that would tend to increase the number of 3rd down plays the defense faces.

If, in 2012, they can decrease the number of 1st downs allowed on earlier downs by, say, 1.5 per game, that would increase the number of opposition 3rd/4th down attempts to 245 (about what the Ravens faced). At that point, even if their raw conversion number doesn't improve from 95, their percentage will have improved to about 38%, the league average last season.

Actually, the Pats 3rd+4th down conversions allowed (95) and percentage (.43) weren't all that far off the league averages of 86 and .38 to begin with, though critics have gotten tons of undeserved mileage out of citing that stat.

Where the defense was REALLY GAWDAWFUL was allowing 1st downs on earlier downs - 149 of them, 2nd worst in the league to only Tampa at 158 (GBY was 3rd worst at 147). This was against a league average of 86 first downs allowed on 1st/2nd down. IOW, the defense "forced" 3rd and 4th downs on only 60% of their series vs. a league average of 73%. Atlanta's 3rd/4th down conversions-allowed percentage (.45) was actually worse than the Pats, but they forced 3rd/4th down on 76% of the opposition's series.

So, the key stat for defensive improvement doesn't appear to be 3rd/4th down conversion % or interceptions or even passing 1st down % (the Pats were at 69% vs. a 60% league average) - it's allowing 1st downs on early downs.
 

ThatllMoveTheChains!!!

In the Starting Line-Up
The game winning drive in SB46 Manning completed a 38 yard pass, 2 passes for 18 yards and a 14 yard pass.

70 yards in 4 plays. Too bad the Giants defense would let Brady rack up that kind of yardage.

TB actually had multiple passes >14yds... The 38yd pass would be more damning of the defense if it was the result of poor coverage opposed to a perfect throw and catch. And giving up a few big plays doesn't change the fact that none of the SB winning Pats teams ever put their defenses in the crappy situation that the defense was put into.
 
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