Having been ranked in the top 10 through the first 3 games of the season, the Patriots fell from grace (and the top 10 ranking) following their loss to the Chiefs. They allowed over 300 yards in the first half alone, and for the first time this season, they were unable to force any turnovers. If they are going to be contenders, some changes need to be made, and the sooner the better.
Let’s talk about the negatives.
Alex Smith didn’t hesitate to throw in Revis’ direction, and was able to complete his first pass of the game to Dwayne Bowe for a first down. Second year corner, Logan Ryan, who played a far from impressive game Monday night, was benched and replaced in the second half by rookie Malcolm Butler, following a costly illegal hands to the face penalty just before halftime. The absence of DL Sealver Siliga proved costly for the Patriots. The defensive line couldn’t keep up with a high-powered Chiefs running game. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, normally high impact players, struggled more than usual. The defense failed to make stops, allowing Kansas City to convert 7 of 12 third downs.
Room for improvement.
During the offseason, the Patriots signed Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to help a much-depleted Patriots secondary. Coming into the season, everyone had high hopes for these two. Revis hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been much better than average, either. He shines in man-to-man coverage, but so far Belichick hasn’t allowed him to play as aggressively as he’s capable of. So essentially, we’re paying him $12 million this season to sit back and play in zone coverage. Browner, who has been serving a four game suspension for PED use, will make his first regular season debut with the Patriots this Sunday. His nasty, physical playing style is a quality the defense is missing right now. It would greatly benefit the Pats to allow Browner and Revis to play press-man coverage. It will be interesting to see how much better the secondary is with the addition of Browner. Obviously, he won’t fix all of the Patriots defensive woes, but he’s a good start.
On a positive note.
Dont’a Hightower has been dominating this season. He’s playing at an all-pro level, registering 2 sacks and 14 tackles* so far. He’s been a nightmare for opposing teams’ offenses. Chandler Jones has been great this season, as well, with 2.5 sacks, and a blocked kick which he returned for a touchdown-my personal favorite play of the season. Both Hightower and Jones have played exceptionally well and only seem to be getting better. As bad as Monday night seemed, hopefully the Patriots defense will get better and will find their rhythm. After such an embarrassing loss, the Patriots will be looking for revenge. Add Browner to the mix, and I expect a big game for the Patriots defense on Sunday night against the Bengals.
The Patriots defense has shown some positive flashes throughout the first four games. The real question is: was the defense we saw Monday night the real Patriots defense, or was it just a fluke?
*stats from ESPN.com