Patriots' defense has best performance at perfect time

Posted Dec. 07, 2010 @ 3:32 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

The Patriots picked a good night to play their best all-around game of the season.

The game was really over when they took a 10-0 lead in the first half. Already, you could tell that one team was much more prepared than the other. Even though the Patriots have been known this season to let teams back into games, a 24-3 lead at halftime felt pretty comfortable.

Now 10-2, the Pats have beaten the 9-3 Jets, the 9-3 Steelers and the 8-4 Ravens. With their next two games against the Bears and Packers, they will have some more challenges, but they have met nearly every obstacle this season.

We knew that Tom Brady and the offense would score points. They had success in Week Two before Brady started to over-target Randy Moss, and no team had slowed the Patriots down since they lost to the Browns. But what was most surprising about their statement win that makes them appear to be the best team in the NFL was a defense that allowed a season-low three points.

The PFW Spin

They blitzed Ben Roethlisberger and confused Peyton Manning. The Patriots' defense did a little of both to Mark Sanchez on Monday night in their best performance of the season.

Constantly disguising at the line, the Patriots made Sanchez's life difficult, often showing blitz only to fall back with seven or eight in coverage. Aside from a missed tackle by CB Devin McCourty, Jets receivers rarely picked up yards after the catch, with corners, safeties and linebackers keeping them contained in the open field.

Bill Belichick used a few different looks, going 3-2-6 with three safeties on passing downs while still relying on his base package. ILB Brandon Spikes, who is known as a run-stopper, stayed back in coverage near the goal line when Sanchez gifted him an interception. OLBs Tully Banta-Cain and Jermaine Cunningham brought pressure off the edge and S Brandon Meriweather made sure no Jet strayed deep. S Jarrad Page had four tackles in his first game since Week Six. CB Kyle Arrington made a couple nice hits by staying step-for-step with receivers.

What the Patriots are missing in personnel with many young players on the field and veterans Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden out, they make up for with their schemes. By constantly mixing it up on the line, Sanchez was rattled all night, completing just 17-of-33 passes while throwing three picks. Jets TE Dustin Keller, who had 115 yards receiving in Week Two, had just three catches for 27 yards.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said before the Patriots-Lions Thanksgiving game that the Patriots' defense does just enough to make sure they have one more point than their opponents, and that's an accurate description of how the bend-but-not-break defense has looked. But on Monday night, the Patriots did more than enough to be on their way to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.