2011 is a new season for the Patriots, but after the first two games there some striking similarities between this season and last season. While the offense is continuing to exceed expectations, it is the defense that is continuing to be inconsistent and allow a bunch of yards only to be bailed out by Tom Brady and the offense as well as forcing turnovers.
While I am not saying forcing turnovers is necessarily a bad thing, they are just something defenses cannot be too dependent on. Look what happened in the playoffs last year to the Jets, after leading the league in turnover differential, +28 (which set a league record), they couldn’t force a turnover in the game that mattered most and it ended their season.
The first two games this season have shown a striking resemblance to last season. In last Monday’s win over the Dolphins the Patriots defense allowed 488 total yards and 390 of them came through the air. The defense forced one turnover, and Brady and the offense put up 38 points.
In game two against the Chargers the defense gave up 470 yards, 372 coming through the air, but were constantly bailed out by mistakes made by the Chargers. The Patriots caused four turnovers, most of which came at critical situations in the game.
The biggest one came right before the end of the first half when the Chargers were driving trailing 17-7 and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork showed just how athletic he is by intercepting a Phillip Rivers pass and returning it about 40 yards to set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal to end the half and give the Patriots a commanding 20-7 lead.
While creating turnovers is great, it is something that a team cannot get overly dependent on. Another stat that stands out is third down defense, the Patriots allowed the Chargers to go 10-12 on third down. A team cannot allow their opponent to have that high of a percentage on third down.
The Patriots defense needs to get better and be more consistent. They cannot continue to be so reliant on causing turnovers and Brady and the offense putting up 30+ points a game. Otherwise they could be looking at an early exit in the playoffs like the past two seasons.