FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The level of competition hasn’t been among the NFL’s elite, but the New England Patriots‘ defense has nonetheless been the story of the team’s season so far.
With the Tom Brady-led offense dealing with a myriad of injury issues, the attacking defense is currently the backbone of the team, sparking memories of the dominant units of the early 2000s that led the team to three Super Bowl titles when Brady was still a young quarterback developing in the system.
The defense made it look easy Sunday against third-string quarterback Luke Falk and the New York Jets in a 30-14 win (touchdowns were scored on a pick-six and muffed punt). That was similar to Week 2 against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Miami Dolphins. Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers were no match in the opener. Next up is a visit to face the Buffalo Bills, who aren’t in the offensive powerhouse category, either, but should provide a greater challenge to a defense that has come out of the chute blazing.
Describe the game in two words: Julian. Edelman. The Patriots’ No. 1 receiver left the game late in the second quarter with a chest injury and didn’t return. The Patriots were well in command at that point, having built a 20-0 halftime lead, so naturally the biggest storyline from there was Edelman’s status. The team’s receiving corps is already thinned after releasing Antonio Brown on Friday, with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski on the depth chart.
QB breakdown: “Get back in the game, Tom!” Brady came out of the game with 8:41 remaining, but when backup Jarrett Stidham threw a pick-six to help the Jets close to 30-14, Brady returned with 6:22 to play. Head coach Bill Belichick often talks about finishing the game, and this was an unusual move, although not unprecedented. Brady got off to a stellar start, but after the Patriots built a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter, the attack began to sputter. It was a struggle the rest of the way and losing Edelman didn’t help.
Promising trend: The Patriots’ fast starts have them playing games on their terms. Dating to last season (including the playoffs), the Patriots have outscored opponents 140-10 in the first half in their past eight games.
Bold prediction for next week: The environment in Western New York will challenge the Patriots’ offense unlike at any point of this season, forcing them to rely more on the running game, which has been one of their weaknesses early this season. How well they respond to that will ultimately be the story of whether they can improve to 4-0.