December 20th, 2010
by FootBasket

Will Tom Brady and his hair be able to overcome the Patriots lack of defense?

I don’t care about Michael Vick’s miracle at the Meadowlands and Tom Brady being outperformed by first time starter Matt Flynn because as much as I’d like to see Vick take the MVP award it just wouldn’t be right with the way Brady has played this season.

The problem is, despite Tom Brady and his bunch of nobodies playing outstanding on offense, the Patriots still aren’t good enough to win a championship.

Throughout the season there have been times when the Patriots have been absolutely horrendous on defense led by their defensive wizard of a coach Bill Belichek.

It isn’t like New England doesn’t have some solid pieces on defense, but they have a number holes that they haven’t been able to cover.

Devin McCourty and his 6 interceptions has given the Pats secondary a big boost this season and if it wasn’t for Ndamukong Suh he would probably be taking the rookie defensive player of the year award.

The defense is surrounded with playmakers as well with guys like Jerod Mayo, Brandon Meriweather, Tully Banta-Cain and you can’t possibly forget the abnormally large 325 pound nose tackle Vince Wilfork.

However, the Patriots defense ranks in the bottom half of the league in almost every defensive category. Their pass defense has been absolutely atrocious as they are allowing 374.6 total yards a game and 263.3 pass yards per game, which is good for 28th and 30th in the league respectively. The odd thing is that they rank 2nd in the league in total interceptions with 21 on the year, only 2 behind Philadelphia.

The offence, as most people know, has been very 2007-like this season even with the departure of Randy Moss. Tom Brady and the Patriots have been able to incorporate a brand new core of offensive “weapons” if you can even call them that.

The franchises knack for finding great talent never ceases to amaze. Rookie tight end’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have played like seasoned veterans so far this season and are only getting better. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, whose name announcers can’t seem to get enough of, and 5 foot 8 division II Heisman Trophy winner Danny Woodhead have created a formidable backfield. Also, second year kick returner/receiver Brandon Tate has provided a huge spark to both the special teams and the receiving unit.

The only constant in the line-up for New England, Wes Welker, has made everyone forget about his season-ending ACL/MCL surgery and is right back to being his old self. I guess Deion Branch also gets part marks for being a constant because in his first game back with the Patriots after re-acquiring him from the Seattle Seahawks it looked like he had never left.

The Pats offense ranks #1 in points per game and unlike their defence they are in the top half of the league in virtually every offensive category.

Devin McCourty leads the Patriots with 6 interceptions

Nevertheless, after seeing Matt Flynn’s performance manning the Green Bay offence on Sunday night football, I think I was convinced that the Patriots are not quite good enough to win a super bowl simply because of their defence. Not to take anything away from Flynn’s surprisingly impressive showing being thrust into such a difficult position with the injury to Aaron Rodgers, but the Patriots defence made the Packers offence look unstoppable at times.

It wasn’t just the passing game either though because the Patriots allowed the Packers to fool us into believing that they actually have a running game. Brandon Jackson ran 22 times for 99 yards, good for a 4.5 yard per carry average, which is 0.6 yards per carry better than his season average.

Unfortunately for the Patriots last night was not an anomaly for the much maligned defense either. In week 3 they allowed the Bills to score 30 points led by Marshawn Lynch and the Bills well-known wicked rushing attack that averaged 5.6 yards per carry that game. Peyton Hillis also torched their defense with 184 yards on ground in week 9. The Bills and Browns rank 17th and 18th in total rush yards in the NFL this season.

The Patriots have allowed certain teams and players to take advantage of their defense that a championship team should not allow. Chad Henne and Carson Palmer have both thrown for over 300 yards in losing causes while more respected players around the league Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers have also had field days all in losses to New England.

These shootout, run n’ gun style wins may be alright for the regular season but come playoff time and things aren’t going to be as easy. The Patriots offence, no matter how good it is, will have a much tougher time scoring in the playoffs with the intensity of opposing teams defences cranked up to the max.

It is inevitable that the Pats come up against a team or teams with an offence that can somewhat keep up with them and a defence that trumps theirs.

It seems like this is as good a year as any for the Patriots to be able to come out on top. The 2010 version of the NFL has no clear-cut number one team. To many fans and analysts alike the Patriots are the top team right now and it’s hard to disagree with that. However, the fact that there is no true consensus top team leaves the Patriots with as good or as bad odds as anyone to win the Super Bowl , whichever way you want to look at it.

When the Patriots come up against a team like the Ravens, Falcons or Steelers their defence flat out isn’t going to be able to do enough to allow their offence the opportunity to outscore the opposition.

They say you need to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good. Well, the New England Patriots are going to need a whole lot of luck if they plan on taking home another championship this coming February.

By Chris Ross

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