Heading into Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, we all should have known how the New England Patriots defense would perform. I even wrote an article last week detailing the identity that the Patriots defense has already carved out for itself. Really, the only reason to even watch the Patriots play on defense would be to see if they would somehow buck their own trend and be as ferociously effective in defending the Seahawks’ passing attack as they would be against the Seahawks’ running offense. The Patriots completely failed to do so and instead became further entrenched in their own defensive identity.
In allowing the Seahawks to score 24 points on Sunday, the Patriots defense was really no worse than they had been all season, at least in terms of points allowed. For their five games previous, the Patriots had conceded an average of 22.6 points per game.
Yet, keeping the Seahawks from scoring more points does not mask just how terrible the Patriots were in trying to defend the pass as they made Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson look like one of the league’s best. Wilson and the Seahawks receivers hit big play after big play after big play against the Patriots defense, seemingly at will.
Wilson ended the game having completed 16 of his 27 pass attempts for 293 yards and three touchdowns, with the last touchdown proving to be the game-winner as wide receiver Sidney Rice caught a 46-yard touchdown pass with a little more than a minute remaining in the game.
A more capable pass defense would have been able to stop an opposing quarterback from gaining 10.9 yards per pass attempt and 13.1 adjusted yards per pass attempt and prevent so many big plays in the passing game, but the Patriots are not such a defense and therefore are unable to do so.
What the Patriots defense can do better than almost any team in the NFL is stop the run as they demonstrated again on Sunday. The Patriots almost completely shut down the Seahawks running game as they held the Seahawks to just 85 rushing yards on 26 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry.
Of course, while stopping teams from running the ball effectively is a great accomplishment, the Patriots defense would be better served by becoming stingier against the pass. Passing is how teams gain huge chunks of yardage at one time, and it is how they can still put up 24 points despite the two turnovers a team forces. Without a better defensive secondary, the Patriots will continue to be able to only win the games where the offense scores at least 30 points.