Defense wins championships. The 2012-2013 New England Patriot's defense strangely resembles that of last year's worst-in-the-league status, plus maybe a couple of upgrades.
New England has upgraded on the defensive line with the addition of rookie Chandler Jones, who has had a great rookie campaign so far. Jones had a couple quarterback hurries in last Sunday's crushing 24-23 last-minute loss to the Seahawks. Jones even chipped in two sacks on fellow rookie Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
The front line is not the big issue plaguing the Patriots defense; it's their last line of defense. New England's secondary has been, for lack of a better term, atrocious this season. The offense did not fare much better last Sunday against the Seahawks. Now, granted they were playing in the NFL's toughest stadium, CenturyLink Field, but that is no excuse for the lack of motivation they exhibited.
Devin McCourty, probably the most experienced cornerback New England has, has blown coverage more times than I can count this season. The rest of the secondary isn't faring too well either. It is his third season in the NFL. When is he going to finally develop into a veteran safety? McCourty had a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2010, but has failed to live up to the hype since. If you touch the stove and get burned once, do you go back and do it a second time?
Apparently Chung and the rest of the New England secondary haven't heard that saying, as they are getting
Wilson so happened to be the guy that Simeon Rice made look silly on the game winning touchdown reception. Why defensive coordinator Matt Patricia did not shift the secondary into a prevent or nickel coverage with 1:18 left in the game is beyond me. The middle of the field was wide open, and, quite frankly, anyone could have made that catch.
People cannot cast the blame solely on New England's defense, but what about the offense lacking the killer instinct we were once accustomed to seeing not too long ago? The Patriots had a plethora of opportunities to tranquilize the Seahawks, but instead they allowed them to come squawking back.
Tom Brady didn't have the best performance of his career, as the 12th man had the stadium rocking. Brady set a career record in first trip to Seattle when he attempted 58 passes. Fifty-eight passes. I'm not so sure that is a good thing. Here's why. New England showed that they are one-dimensional, and when a team does that, defensive coordinators show no shame in dialing up coverage packages to kill New England's short-pass machine. It is no 007 covert secret the Patriots have made their killing on that for quite a long time. But in past years and games, they have been able to establish a running game.
Tom Brady went 36-of-58 , passing for 350 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns -- rather average numbers for one of the league's elite quarterbacks. A costly intentional grounding call just before halftime was a big turning point in the game.
Brady threw a lame duck on third down right at Dan Connolly's heels. If New England was able to gain positive yardage on that play, kicker Stephen Gostkowski could have made the field goal with his eyes closed, extending New England's lead before halftime. Some of Brady's inopportune decisions really cost the Patriots the game, and earned them a mediocre record of 3-3. An interesting note, the Patriots three losses have come by a margin of three points or less.
Brady threw both interceptions during the second half, with one of them being inside the Seahawks 10-yard line, which could have all but sealed a Patriots victory. Brady wound up and fired a pass towards the end zone from the Seattle 6-yard line intended for Wes Welker, but Earl Jones snagged it for Seattle's second interception of the game, stymieing the Patriots offense yet again in the red zone.
New England was up 20-10 when Brady was picked off in the fourth quarter. The Patriots defense on the next drive was suspect. Patrick Chung gave up a 40-yard spot foul pass interference penalty, which later resulted in a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zack Miller. New England's offense was one-of-six in the red zone. Now, I am not a math guy by any stretch of the imagination, but when you are converting just 17 percent of the time inside the opponents 20-yard line, there is an issue that needs to be corrected.
Brady threw two interceptions, and one of them came on second down inside Seahawks territory on the 45-yard line. It was the third quarter and the Patriots were up 20-10. The Patriots needed just six-yards. I cannot figure out for the life of me why they didn't take the chance and hand the ball off to Stevan Ridley. Ridley would have possibly gained two, maybe three yards. Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels instead dialed up a 15-yard post to Deion Branch that was picked off easily by Sherman.
If there is any salvation for this year's Patriots team, look no further than the rest of the AFC East. New England owns the same record as the rest of the division, and they can take sole possession of first place if they are able to beat the Jets. Past History has shown that New England doesn't collapse in back-to-back games, but we shall see how this Sunday goes. The Patriots giving up 283 passing yards to Wilson, a quarterback with the league's worst passer rating, is inexcusable.
New England needs to correct their secondary issues and make smarter decisions when possessing the ball on critical drives that could put the game away. If I recall correctly, this is not the first time Bill Belichick's coaching philosophy was thrown under the bus. Anyone remember the fourth-down call to go for it two seasons ago against the Jets in the playoffs? Yeah, me too, and I am sure his coaching will come into question again. That's just the way it goes when your team has been successful for as long as the Patriots have.
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