New England’s defense only continues to prove the doubters wrong as the weeks go by. Coming off of their near shutdown performance against Trevor Siemian and the Broncos at Mile High, the defense helped lead the way to the Patriots’ eighth straight AFC East divisional title and first-round bye (at this point, I’ve pretty much forgotten what it’s like to have to play in the first round of the playoffs). Quarterback Tom Brady is obviously the team-MVP and arguably the league-MVP this season, but as New England’s success goes, their defense deserves as much credit as TB12.
Things started off shaky to begin the 2016 season. This defense, coming into the season, was one of the Patriots’ most talented defenses in a number of years, and were supposed to carry the load while Brady was serving his four-game suspension. Things didn’t necessarily go as planned, and then despite Brady’s return, things still didn’t really start to look up for the D.
In the middle of the season and in the middle of their struggles, Belichick shocks the football world and trades one of his best defensive players in Jamie Collins to the Browns for basically nothing in return. By now, Patriots fans know better than to question Bill Belichick’s decisions, but many couldn’t help but scratch their heads for days over this. Trading your stud, playmaking, defensive beast in the midst of serious defensive struggles? How in the world could that ever work out?
Just days after the trade came easily New England’s biggest challenge yet into town: the Seattle Seahawks. To summarize, not much went right in this game, especially for the Jamie Collins-less defense. Belichick’s decision was the very first thing that came to mind to many during this game. The real question was, would New England have won with Collins? Who knows. We’ll never know. Nonetheless, Pats fans were left, once again, scratching their heads at yet another Belichick move.
Fear not. Since that 31-24 home loss to Seattle, the Patriots have won five straight, much credit going to the defense (@ SF, 30-17 W; @ NYJ, 22-17 W; vs LA, 26-10 W; vs BAL, 30-23 W; @ DEN, 16-3 W). The sudden improvement from this defense is incredible. Just last month, folks were worried about whether or not it would make or break the season sooner or later or if the Collins trade was one Belichick’s worst move yet. Fast forward, some are calling New England’s D one of the best in the league. Sure, their opponents haven’t been necessarily the toughest, but you have to give them credit, especially for the last two games against Baltimore and Denver. That performance against the Broncos was easily the Patriots’ best all season, defensively.
Let’s take a look at some numbers, shall we?
So, are the Patriots better without Collins? Honestly, it’s still too early to tell. But, I think that Belichick was probably right on this one, once again. Following Collins’ departure from New England, the defense completely turned it around and looked way different from previous weeks, and in a good way. It’s almost like their entire identity changed. Maybe Collins was a locker room cancer and hurt his teammates and their chemistry. With Collins, you didn’t hear players speak about the chemistry and how they felt as a group. In recent weeks, they’ve been more vocal about how well they work together and how much improvement has been made. Only time will tell, but signs point up to a Patriots team minus Jamie Collins, as of right now, at least.
Thanks to his defense’s recent success and his overall decent tenure so far with New England, Matt Patricia may be on the radar for many teams to hire for a head coaching job. Showing that he can somehow make his men better immediately after the head coach trades away key guys like Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins looks very nice on his resume, if he does choose to go elsewhere. He isn’t perfect, but he does one hell of a job week in and week out. Belichick recently said that he does leave McDaniels and Patricia alone when it’s game time to do their own thing, so you have to give Matty P some credit here for what his guys have accomplished.
As the saying goes, defense wins you championships, and that might be a good part of the storyline for the Patriots 2016-2017 season. New England isn’t at 12-2 right now without their D. All the props and credit in the world to Tom Brady and the McOffense, but that’s another story. Who knows if this defense has reached their peak yet or not, but come playoff time, they’ll surely be tested. But I think they can handle much of the broot that will come their way next month. A few players in particular pointed out recently that they’re doing their best to prove to people that they really don’t suck, and they’re certainly doing a great job at that. Belichick has created something special here, and even more so without Collins.