488, 470, 488, 504 — those are the number of yards the Patriots defense allowed their opposition to gain in the first four games of the season. Sunday against the New York Jets the defense stepped up and only allowed 255 yards in their 30-21 victory at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots secondary has been the area of concern for the defense as they were giving up massive amounts of yards through the air, as well as struggling mightily on third down. Going into Sunday’s game the Patriots defense was ranked 30th in the NFL in averaged yards allowed with 477.5. They rose to the occasion Sunday afternoon, and played undoubtedly their best game of the season leading the Patriots to a division win.
The group had their best game of the season without their leader, middle linebacker Jerod Mayo who is reportedly out 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Gary Guyton and Brandon Spikes filled in nicely at the middle linebacker spot and both had solid performances helping to make up for Mayo’s loss. Guyton finished with a team-high nine tackles while being the signal caller, and Spikes added six.
While the Jets aren’t a prolific offense by any means, it was definitely a major improvement from past weeks by the defense. In fact, in 11 total drives for the Jets, the Patriots forced seven three-and-outs. Also, despite their struggles on third down this season the Patriots held the Jets to only 3 of 11 conversions on third down. No matter who the opponent is, those are pretty impressive numbers.
Another facet of the defense that hasn’t been up to par this year, or in the past few seasons actually, has been the pass rush. This improved a little on Sunday as the Patriots sacked Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez twice and forced quick throws on a few other occasions. Defensive end Mark Anderson led the attack with 1.5 sacks. The Patriots also used some different looks to get after Sanchez, on two plays they used a corner blitz, which is something the Patriots don’t show very often.
The different looks and more “chances” taken by the defense is something they can build on week to week. In the end it is not how you start, its how you finish, and if the Patriots defense can continue to get better each week they can be in a very good position come January.