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Pretty impressive performance by the Patriots defense Sunday. I know some it was Deshaun Watson looking rusty, but he took them apart last year as a rookie. Is it possible that this is an area of the team that is better than we thought? – Matt H.
I guess it depends on what your perspective on the defense was coming into the season, because Sunday’s win was at least a partial confirmation of what I’ve believed since training camp started: This was going to be a more aggressive and better defense than the one they had last year.
Maybe that’s not saying much considering how porous they were in the Super Bowl, but the Patriots did finish the regular season having allowed the fifth-fewest points in the NFL (296, trailing only the Vikings, Jaguars, Chargers and Eagles). They weren’t bad. They just weren’t aesthetically interesting very often.
Part of that was a lack of big plays. Trey Flowers led the Patriots with 6.5 sacks last year. They had 42 as a team, which tied for eighth in the league, but they rarely seemed to have any consistency in the rush. And they were 19th in interceptions, with just 12.
Yesterday, they had three sacks (1.5 each for Flowers and the emerging Deatrich Wise Jr.), plus Stephon Gilmore’s pick, which should probably be half-credited to new starting cornerback Eric Rowe. The Texans did compile some yardage (325 net yards), but were just 2 for 11 on third down, and 0 for 1 on fourth.
Coming off a knee injury that ended his rookie season, Watson looked rusty, but the Patriots also contained him well and befuddled him from time to time in coverage.
The Patriots do need to tighten up their run defense – the Texans averaged 4.9 yards per carry — but all in all, it was an encouraging effort for the Patriots defense.
Flowers is going to be a monster this year. Wise is vastly improved. The Adrian Clayborn pickup gives them more quality up front, and the importance of having Dont’a Hightower back doesn’t need to be explained to Patriots fans. This is a good defense, and they showed it Sunday.
But what do you guys think? Has the Patriots defense been underestimated, or do you still have concerns? I’ll hear you in the comments.