The Patriots’ struggles on the defensive side of the ball have been a topic of discussion for quite some time in New England. After Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense shredded the Pats through the air last Sunday, the rest of America is starting to take notice. From former Patriots to former opponents to fantasy football experts, there is little confidence and absolutely no praise for the Patriots’ last-ranked defense.
Here’s a sampling from around the media:
ESPN Boston. ESPN Boston is more the local arm of ESPN, but you can watch a debate HERE between NFL Live crew members Tedy Bruschi and Antonio Pierce over whether the team can win a Super Bowl as currently constructed. Actually, there isn’t much debate as Bruschi and Pierce both agree that unless the defense improves, the Pats aren’t going very far. Bruschi goes so far as to question whether the Pats can even win the division or make the playoffs if the defense doesn’t improve. At the link above, you can also read a debate between ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg and Mike Reiss.
Rodney Harrison. Former Patriot and current NFL Network/NBC analyst Rodney Harrison is his usual, straightforward self, saying that the defense “stinks” and that Brady thinks to himself, “Our defense stinks. We’re going to have to score a lot of points if we want to have a chance to compete.” Here’s another sampling from Harrison, which you can read in full HERE.
"“I hate it [the defense], I don’t like it at all. That scheme doesn’t work for me. When you play a good offense, a team that spreads you out, there’s just too many openings in zone coverage. You have to mix in man-to-man coverage. You have to become more creative on defense. You have to disguise, bring more pressure.”"
Hines Ward. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver didn’t play Sunday, and according to him, that was because they felt confident matching up against the Patriots secondary.
"“I probably could have forced it and played, but we have some great wideouts. I wasn’t really concerned. And against the Patriots, we felt we could exploit their secondary. That wasn’t the same secondary that we played against a year ago without having (James Sanders), (Brandon Meriweather) wasn’t back there and they let Leigh Bodden go. We kind of liked our matchups. So there was no need for me to try to force it and go.”"
NFL Network. Former Boston Globe writer and current NFL Network analyst Albert Breer discussed the Pats’ weakness in the secondary, and while he didn’t question Bill Belichick’s coaching, he did question Belichick’s work as a personnel guy.
"“The issue here isn’t that Bill Belichick has lost his touch as a defensive coach, because his work in mitigating the damage by winning battles in the red zones has made the problem a manageable one, when combined with Tom Brady and his explosive offense. Instead, the issue is that Belichick the Personnel Man is striking out, big-time, in trying to fix the corner and safety positions.”"
Fantasy Football. Giants QB Eli Manning is the Start of the Week, and it’s directly linked to the fact that he’s facing the Patriots secondary, according to fantasy guru Michael Fabiano.
"Manning is on pace to put up the best fantasy numbers of his career, and a matchup against the Patriots makes him that much more attractive. New England has struggled against the pass, allowing the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. What’s more, six of the last seven signal-callers to face them have scored 16-plus fantasy points."
If there’s one thing that’s been a trademark of any Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team, it’s that they usually respond well to poor performances. Can they do it this Sunday? We know exactly what we have in the 2011 New England Patriots based on this Sunday’s game.