After getting exposed versus Joe Flacco and the Ravens though, things have gone down hill.
It hasn't really been a case of what quarterback the Patriots have faced - as they've faced quite a number of mediocre to bad ones and still given up plays. So, what was the difference between a game such as Week 2 vs the Cardinals - where the Patriots allowed just 242 yards - and the point they're at now, giving up over 300 yards to Mark Sanchez?
A lot of that might have to do with pressure on the quarterback, and the offensive line deficiencies of the Cardinals. Even though Kolb missed some easy throws, this was maybe the defense's best game all year.
Kolb threw for only 140 yards and his top receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, had only one catch.
That's right. This was a Patriots defense that did that, the much maligned 2012 Patriots pass defense even.
So, this proves that the defense is capable of nearly shutting down an offense. You can point to the fact that Kolb isn't the greatest quarterback in the world, but then what can you say about the other QBs like Wilson or Sanchez who have lit up this defense?
It was a game where the Patriots had five quarterback hits and two sacks. But maybe more importantly, it was against a Cardinals offensive line that Football outsiders ranks dead last in the league. They've also given up the most quarterback hits in the league with 53.
Greg Bedard's recent column suggests that a lack of a pass rush is maybe the number one problem on this defense, and has a direct relation to their giving up the deep throw. So, wouldn't a bad offensive line be exactly the elixir this team needs?
Here is a list of the teams that the Patriots have faced, the number of deep throws they attempted and completed (per pro-football-reference) and where their offensive line ranks in pass protection according to Football Outsiders.
|Team||Deep Throws||Percentage||Touchdowns deep||O-line Rank|
|TEN||57.1 %||1 TD||6th|
So what is the big difference between the Cardinals game and the others? They only attempted three deep balls and they missed on all of them. Why do you think that they only attempted three deep balls?? Their offensive line is terrible, in fact worst in the league. The sooner you can get to a quarterback, the less deep throws they are able to throw.
The outlier here is maybe Seattle, whose offensive line is ranked 21st. If you remember correctly though, Russell Wilson is a bit of a mobile quarterback. A lot of times he was rushed out of the pocket, and then he threw it deep.
One stat to worry you for this week is that the Rams wide receiver, Chris Givens has a 50-yard catch in each of the last four games. According to Shalise Manza Young the Patriots have allowed 38 plays this year of over 20+ yards.
One sign of good news it that the St. Louis Rams have the second worst offensive line the Patriots will have faced this year, ranking 25th according to Football Outsiders.
The question remains, which defense will show up? Can we get one that gets to the passer, and prevents them from attempting all of these deep throws similar to Week 2? Or will we get what's been par for the course so far, a defense that gives the QB plenty of time to look down the field.
With the worst offensive line the Patriots have faced in a while, here's hoping that it looks more like Week 2.