Originally written December 11, 2012 on Boston's Bettah:
New-england-patriots
Devin McCourty and the Patriots’ defense is championship caliber The most impressive part about the New England Patriots ransacking of the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football wasn’t Tom Brady’s four touchdowns or Brandon Lloyd’s ability to beat man coverage or even the offensive line slowing down the vaunted Texans defensive line. What was happening on that side of the ball has been somewhat expected from the New England Patriots against anyone in the NFL. Questions from this team have come on the other side of the ball. Mainly, the question has been “Can this defense lead the Patriots’ to a Super Bowl Championship?” Throughout most of 2012 in both the post-season of last year and the early portions of the 2012-2013 season, that question has usually been answered with a resounding “no”. The defense wasn’t tough enough and their greatest weakness (the secondary) was not being helped by a below average pass-rush. The Patriots’ best defense was it’s offense leading long drives down the field which was the exact opposite of what the high-powered offense was trying to do. The offense and the defense mixed about as well as vodka and salad dressing. Something weird happened though. After giving up 31 points to the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots forced four turnovers against the Colts then preceded to not allow more than 19 points in any game since. On Monday Night Football against another top offense featuring stars such as Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, the Patriots allowed 14 total points including one garbage time touchdown. Their defense has gone from one of the worst scoring defenses in football to the 11th ranked scoring defense. They force turnovers and prevent points. Twice on Monday the Texans had a fourth down and five or less in the second quarter where the game was still in balance. Both times, the Patriots came up with the big stop. Basically, this is a defense that can win a Super Bowl. A lot of it changed when Aqib Talib came in for the New England Patriots. It’s the obvious thing to point to as well. The last Patriots’ game before Talib was that Buffalo game where they gave up 31 points. In Talib’s first game, he had a pick-six against Andrew Luck. Inserting Talib into the line-up gave the Patriots better defensive flexibility. It allowed Devin McCourty to move to safety, a position that is more natural to him due to his unique ball skills and tackling ability. Talib’s quality coverage ability gave the Patriots flexibility in terms of help coverage to the other side of the field especially with Kyle Arrington and rookie Alfonzo Denard. Then, the Patriots dialed up the pressure up front. Perhaps they were encouraged by a more talented secondary that could make plays if the front seven didn’t get to the quarterback, but the Patriots have been coming stronger and more often at opposing quarterbacks. This is causing forced throws from opposing quarterbacks and more turnovers. Is it one of the best defenses in football or in Patriots’ history? No, but recent years have also shown us that defenses don’t have to be top in the league in order to win a Super Bowl. The 2010 Saints did just enough defensively to win a Super Bowl, as did the 2011 Packers. Both of those defenses did similarly to what these Patriots do. They make enough big plays to get the ball back to their offense and then score at a ridiculous rate. What makes this defense different from last years version is that the Patriots actually have more talent on defense. They can make more plays than they did last year. They can make a big tackle when they need to and they can trust a secondary player to cover a good to great receiver. It’s that reason that the Patriots defense can consider itself championship caliber.
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