It happened because there was terrific symmetry between the front and back end of the defense.
“They were firing on all cylinders,” said Dolphins tackle Nate Garner.
It’s something we would not have seen earlier in the season because this is the way the Patriots do things. They don’t just get better because one player arrives, or somebody switches to a different spot.
The Patriots improve incrementally over the course of the season because that’s the way Belichick and Patricia built it. Brick by brick.
“It’s team defense,” Belichick said. “Guys were covered, the quarterback had to hold the ball, they helped the pass rush. Guys rushed well, guys covered well. When the receivers are open, it doesn’t matter what your pass rush is. If you make the quarterback hold the ball then that helps the pass rush. It was good team defense.”
That’s not to say the Patriots are some defensive dynamo or anything, and that they’ll suddenly start some long scoreless-quarters streak.
With Ninkovich possibly out for a while with a hip injury, the Patriots lose an invaluable piece that excels in versatility. No one person can replace that.
The Patriots are going to need younger players such as Jones, Deaderick, Francis, Dont’a Hightower, and Dennard to prove themselves in the playoffs.
But at least they have the tools at their disposal to win the playoffs. It’s all been building to this. Now they just have to execute at a higher level.