New England Patriots: A journey through the first 8 games of the season

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks with Tom Brady
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks with Tom Brady /
2 of 5
FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 29: Malcolm Butler
FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 29: Malcolm Butler /

Welcome Back The “Bend, the but don’t Break Defense”

A staple of a Bill Bellchick coached team has always been a discipline defense. This team is still trying to find it on a consistent basis.

After taking an almost entirely in-tact unit minus Logan Ryan (signed in FA/TEN) and Rob Ninkovich (Retirement) and adding Stephon Gilmore from the Buffalo Bills in free agency, the Patriots’ defense was expected to come back better than ever.

Following a year where the defense allowed a league-leading 15.6 points per game, the defense has fallen to 16th in the league, letting up 22.4 ppg.  They also fell to last in the NFL in total yards allowed.

Another staple of the Patriots has always been that they never let up the big play.   This is certainly not the case as the team is allowing 417 yards per game from opposing offenses.

Whats different?

More from New England Patriots

Not much has changed between the two teams.  But the defense and particularly the secondary has had troubles with communication.

In Week 4 against the Carolina Panthers, newly acquired cornerback Stephon Gilmore failed to communicate with safety Devin McCourty that he was playing a flat zone, which allowed Panthers receiver Devin Funchess to slip right through the secondary and score on a wide open touchdown.

This has happened on many other occasions throughout the early part of the season.  In fact, the first game the Patriots’ defense held an opposing quarterback to under 300 passing yards came in Week 7.  This was after they were torched in six straight weeks by the likes of Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, and Josh McCown.

Somehow though, the team has found its way to a 6-2 record and sit atop the AFC.

Yes, the defense has made massive improvements in recent weeks.  They almost pitched a shutout against last years NFL MVP Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons and then followed that up by allowing just 13 points against the L.A. Chargers.

This recent success comes without Stephon Gilmore, Malcom Brown, Eric Rowe and Dont’a Hightower, who was the team’s leader on defense.  With Hightower now out for the season, the team has to find a way to continue improving on defense if they want to reach Super Bowl LII.