New England Patriots defense need to get it right before playoffs

The New England Patriots defense could not catch Jaguars RB Dare Ogunbowale (33) on this screen pass that went for a touchdown. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots defense could not catch Jaguars RB Dare Ogunbowale (33) on this screen pass that went for a touchdown. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots needed a bounce-back game, and they got one against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Mac Jones was surgical, completing 73 percent of his passes for 227 yards and three scores. The O-line dominated, allowing no sacks and plowing the way for 181 rushing yards and four scores.

The defense…was eh…

The three interceptions were nice. It was a welcomed return since the defense had one over the previous two weeks. And New England held the Jaguars to 3-of-9 on third down. Beyond that, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence completed 63 percent of his passes. His yards per completion was 11.4. Jacksonville average 5.3 yards per rush attempt. The Patriots had just two sacks and one tackle for a loss.

Jacksonville is 27th in total offense in the league. For a defense that was briefly viewed as one of the best in the league, the New England Patriots should had dominated the Jaguars like they did the Panthers, Browns and Falcons.

The New England Patriots defense  was supposed to get right but made only gradual improvements.

If this is the defense the New England Patriots take to the playoffs, there is reasonable concern about how well New England matches up. Apply what needs improving to the potential opponents and it becomes a weakness to attack.

Related Story. Analyzing Patriots potential playoff matchups. light

Lawrence had a 15-yard rush Sunday. Bills QB Josh Allen rushed for 103 yards in two games against the Patriots. This included rushes of 21 yards at Highmark Stadium and 25 yards at Gillette Stadium.

New England didn’t pay for allowing 5.3 yards per carry, but it will be a heavy price if Colts RB Jonathan Taylor chews up yards at that rate.

And the Titans might have RB Derrick Henry back for the playoffs. The Patriots already gave up 270 yards to Tennessee in the regular season win. New England can’t afford a repeat performance against a healthy Henry and expect to win.

The Bengals have allowed 51 sacks, but that hasn’t slowed down QB Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati receiving corps, led by 1,000-yard receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.

And head coach Bill Belichick has yet to figure out how to slow down the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes. In four games Mahomes has 10 touchdown passes, just three interceptions and a quarterback rating well over 100. New England hasn’t picked Mahomes off in the last two matchups.

Next. Patriots should be pulling for a playoff game vs. Bills. dark

Miami is the final opportunity to tune up the defense. Belichick rested some veterans against the Jaguars (LB Matthew Judon played just 21 percent of the snaps), but should go all out against the Dolphins. There’s more to play for besides playoff seeding.

There isn’t any reason why the New England Patriots defense shouldn’t dominate the Dolphins. Yes, anything can happen under the Miami sun. But QB Tua Tagovailoa is mediocre, at best. The rushing offense is 31st in the league.

This should be a complete dismantling by the Patriots defense until the back-ups enter the game. Whatever vulnerabilities from last week need to be fine-tuned for the playoffs. Opponents will certainly attack any potential weak spots, so the defense must fix any problems.