The New England Patriots defense is even worse than you thought, according to one key stat.
The New England Patriots defense, once a unit so elite it could singlehandedly win you a fantasy league, is now the worst in the game.
That’s not a typo, nor is it a qualification you might need to hedge. According to one key metric, the Pats defense has gone from the game’s literal best in 2019 to its literal worst this time around.
Are there complicating factors? Of course! Some of them were decisions Bill Belichick actively made, and some were beyond his control. But the fact remains that what we’re left with is a skeleton of 2019’s unit, and that skeleton can’t cover anyone. The football simply…whizzes through that skeleton’s exposed rib cage into the hands of the opposing receiver.
If you ain’t first, you might as well be last.
Of course, you can’t tell the story of 2020 without a series of devastating defensive opt-outs, from captain Dont’a Hightower on the interior to Patrick Chung on the outside. Even if that second layer of depletion hadn’t happened, though, we still would’ve been eyeing a linebacking corps missing Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins. You can pay lip service to solving that problem internally or escaping a new issue by not overpaying aging talent, but the team was always going to be objectively worse with that high number of holes, and now…here we are. Last.
Of course, that analysis also doesn’t account for a checked-out and injured Stephon Gilmore putting his home on the market midseason, then trying to shrug that off.
So where do we go from here? Is there a free agent quick fix next season? Has anyone been drafted and developed who you’d trust to lead the next, great Patriots defense?
There are plenty of ways to get this unit back to competency next year, but there was something uniquely special about the 2019 team that we may never get back.
There’s solid play and then there’s impenetrable dominance. New England’s 2019 defensive season was the kind of thing a team has to take advantage of and translate into a title. They didn’t. And now we’re here.