Ed, if the one and only way to beat the Patriots is to hit Tom Brady, I’ll take it. Better than being able to be beaten in a lot of ways, like the Jets: play defense, kick a few field goals, or play them a week after they play the Patriots. (As Rex Ryan said about last year’s playoff game against the Patriots, it was “the second-biggest in Jets history” — the biggest being Super Bowl III. Way to go, Rex. You won your biggest game of the year. Too bad it wasn’t the Super Bowl.)
I’ll be (not) the first person to say that “defense wins championships.” The 2007 Patriots had the best and most prolific offense in the history of the NFL, and they lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl because the Giants had — and (more importantly) played — solid defense. The Giants’ D had seen the Patriots’ offense in Week 17, and properly adjusted their looks and pressure schemes for the Super Bowl. The Patriots brought more of the same, and we all saw what happened. Even in Week 17, the Giants almost beat the Patriots — they could have — and they at least made it competitive until the end of the game. That’s why I keep harping on pass rush, and defense in general for the Patriots.
Look at the sacks allowed for the last twelve seasons by the Patriots:
(The stars — some might say “starbursts” — represent Super Bowl victories.)
You’ll notice an obvious downward trend, as Brady and the O-line improved. But there’s something wrong about thinking that protecting Tom Brady will result in more championships. The 2001 Patriots allowed more than twice the number of sacks than did the 2007 Patriots; yet the 2001 Patriots were the ones to walk home with a championship. (I’m not arguing that the Patriots should allow Tom Brady to get hit more often, as much as that would please the New York fans around these parts.)
Have Darius Butler and Brandon Tate had more combined output than Clay Matthews? Who knows? Bill Belichick is one of the most defensively minded coaches in the league, but he will, as he’s said, pick the best player available in the draft at the time, based on variables known only by those in the draft room. We know at least one thing, and that is that Belichick will maximize the output of the players he has to work with. I just wish the defensive material he had to work with was a little bit better, is all.
In the next installment of “Patriots Talk with Nathan Goulding”: why the Pats should have kept Matt Cassel.