Patriots’ Defense Just as Good as Broncos’ Where it Counts


Where it counts most, the New England Patriots’ Defense is just as good as the Denver Broncos’ elite unit.

Take heart, Tennessee Titans fans – the last time the Titans came up to New England, the Patriots laid 59 unanswered points on Tennessee. That’s progress!

With Tennessee only mustering 16 points against the Patriots on Sunday afternoon, Pats fans had plenty of time to soak in the Schadenfreude of the Denver Broncos blowing what seemed like a dozen opportunities to put the game away against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Instead of Denver capitalizing on a 27-13 halftime lead, the barroom-consensus best defense in the NFL let Pittsburgh score 21 unanswered points in the second half, while the Steelers’ defense made Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler look like he was throwing blindfolded…and not in the Peter LeFleur American Dodgeball Association of America finals, either.

With the Patriots having a first-round bye and their division locked up, they can secure home field advantage next week with a victory against the New York Jets. Denver and Cincinnati play each other next week, which makes it impossible for either of them to match New England’s record if the Patriots put the Jets away in Week 16.

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And while Tom Brady and New England’s offense keeps putting up rock star numbers week in and week out, the Patriots defense, now more than ever, deserves to be on the “Best Defense in the NFL” short list.

The only conceivable reason this hasn’t taken over the national conversation yet is that New England’s defensive players are relatively anonymous, a platoon of Stormtroopers as opposed to the Legion of Boom, Denver’s All-Money 2015 class of the best free agents money can buy, or the Carolina Panthers’ defense that’s probably also being overshadowed because of their quarterback’s MVP-level season.

In a lot of different ways, the Broncos DO put the best defense in the NFL on the field every week.  Denver is first overall in the league in yards allowed (3,919), first in yards per game, where they lead #2 Seattle by a ridiculous 30 yards per game (279.9), and they’re also first in passing yards allowed (200) and first in rushing yards allowed (1,119).

Pretty stout.

The Patriots defense, while it’s nothing to sneeze at, doesn’t come close to Denver in any of those categories.  New England is 7th in yards allowed (4,565), 6th in yards allowed per game (326.1), 8th in passing yards per game (230.3) and 10th in rushing yards per game (95.8).

New England’s defense may give up more yards on the ground and through the air than Denver or Seattle or any other team that already has a playoff spot chilling on ice, but they put a numerical value on the most time-honored tradition of sports-bar superlatives:


Oh, so now you can put a number on “clutch”?

We’re about to.

So for all those passing and rushing yards the Patriots give up, here’s where they stand in points allowed, compared to Denver, who we’ve already established as the best in the NFL:

Denver: 259

New England: 269

Denver’s 259 points allowed on the season is good for 4th in the NFL (more on that later), while New England’s 269 is the league’s sixth-best.

Predictably, when you break that down to points allowed per game, Denver is still 4th, and New England is still 6th.  If you passed grade-school pre-calc, that’s no surprise.

But who’s first overall in the NFL in Week 16 in points allowed?

The Cincinnati Bengals, who are only allowing 17.4 points per game.  Denver, on average, allows 18.5, while New England allows 19.2.

Dec 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Leonard Johnson (34) and cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) celebrate after a defensive play during the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Texans 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots defense, whose most recognizable player might be Super Bowl “Real MVP” Malcolm Butler, or “You’re Jonny Bones’ brother, right?” Chandler Jones, is within less than two points per game of being the best of the NFL.  Cincinnati is at 17.4, and New England is at 19.2.

Furthering the “clutch” argument, guess who leads the league in sacks?

Well well well, looks like we have a tie.

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Denver and New England are tied for #1 overall, with each team boasting 47 sacks on the season.  The next-closest team is Kansas City, who have just as many big-name defensive starters as Denver, with 41.

New England also, with a starting secondary that has included Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Leonard Martin, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, and Devin McCourty, picked off 12 passes this season.  Denver has 13 interceptions on the year.

Smoking both New England and Denver in the interception column of the stat sheet is…wait for it…the Carolina Panthers, who have 22 interceptions on the season.

Those sweet, sweet 22 picks, though, haven’t been able to keep Carolina’s opponents out of the end zone as frequently as New England’s defense.  Like we said earlier, New England ranks 6th in the league overall in average points allowed per game, with 19.2.

The unbeaten Carolina Panthers, meanwhile, are right in the same ballpark, with an average of 19.9 points allowed per game, but they’ve allowed a few more points this season – the Panthers have allowed 278, compared to the Patriots’ 269.

Next: Patriots' Must Grab AFC's Number One Seed

So really, the only question is whether you think the New England Patriots defense (again, headlined by an undrafted Division-II cornerback this season) is closer to the statistical best defense in the league, or the defense of a team that is on the verge of closing out the first 16-0 regular season since…New England did it in 2007.

That’s pretty solid company to be in.