The New England Patriots defense hasn’t been as stout as some would hope this season, and the unit is receiving criticism from a variety of sources.
One Patriots analyst is tracing the issues to Bill Belichick’s assistant, the recently returned Matt Patricia.
Matt Patricia Called the Common Denominator For the Patriots’ Defensive Struggles
NBC Sports’ Tom E. Curran discussed the inability of the Patriots’ defense to get crucial stops against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in the 35-29 overtime loss at Gillette Stadium. Curran pointed the finger at Patricia, who returned to the Patriots as a Senior Football Advisor after spending the 2018-20 as the head coach of the Detroit Lions.
On the latest episode of Post Game Live, Curran said: “It’s coaching. In 2017, Matt Patricia’s last year here, they weren’t a good defense — at all. They gave up 41 points in the Super Bowl, they almost got beat by Jacksonville and Blake Bortles.”
Curran continued later in his rant: “Now Matt Patricia has returned — and they are setting franchise records,” Curran said. “I don’t know what role he’s got, but we’ve got a common denominator in the house.”
Patricia was relieved of his head-coaching duties in Detroit 11 games into the 2020 season and he compiled a record of 13-29-1 during his time at the helm in Motown. The assumption is that Patricia is playing a significant role with the Patriots defense, which has been the target for criticism, and Curran isn’t the only one with an issue with the unit.
Former Patriots Are Calling Out the Team’s Defense
Three former Patriots have taken the team’s defense to task. Following the Week 4 loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Christian Fauria, a former Patriots tight end and now co-host of WEEI’s Merloni and Fauria was speaking to Rodney Harrison, another former player with the franchise.
Fauria asked Harrison, who played safety on two Super Bowl champion teams in New England, if the linebackers looked slow. Harrison said:
You’re spot on. It doesn’t seem like they’re slow, and I love those guys and have so much respect for those guys, but yeah, they are slow. When you start watching LaVonte David, you start watching Devin White move and blitz and move from sideline to sideline, it’s night and day difference. And that was the thing that really stood out to me. I’m like, ‘Look how fast and athletic Tampa Bay linebackers look.’ And the Patriots linebackers, the defense just looks slow. It’s always kind of looked like that, and it starts with those backers, man. Those guys have experience and things like that, but that’s something the Patriots definitely need to upgrade a little bit moving forward. That’s speed.
After the loss to the Cowboys on Sunday, Hall-of-Fame corner and Patriots legend Ty Law appeared as a guest on The Greg Hill Show and expressed some embarrassment connected to the team’s passing defense.
Law said: “I’m really upset about what’s going on. Because you don’t let people come in there and walk all over you, throw the ball like that anytime they want to. I mean, that’s shameful.”
Has the Patriots’ Defense Really Been That Bad?
When looking at the numbers, it appears the former Patriots and their critics may be a little harsh with their assessments. The Patriots currently rank 17th in total yards allowed, 16th in passing and rushing yards allowed and 10th in points surrendered per game. Is that stellar or on par with what the team did in 2019 when they had the best defense in the NFL?
Of course not, but it’s not falling apart the way it seems when listening to some of the diehards and former players lament the unit’s performance. The Patriots’ defense has suffered more from timely mishaps than from simply being a unit unable to get stops or make plays. The Cowboys have arguably the most complete offense in the NFL with one of the best quarterbacks in Dak Prescott, young receiver CeeDee Lamb and running back Ezekiel Elliott; No one is going to shut them down completely.
However, the Patriots’ defense needed to come up with a big stop in the fourth quarter to keep Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein from kicking a game-tying field goal that sent the game to overtime, and to slow down Prescott and Lamb as they torched New England’s secondary with the game-winning connection in the extra session.
New England’s defense has made some plays, but they need to come up with more clutch stops if they want to finish on the right side of these close contests.
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