What went wrong with the New England defense on Sunday?
Heading into this season, knowing New England would be without quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games, the common thought was that the talented Patriots defense would be the strong suit of this team in the meantime, which has actually not been the case.
At 2-0 and allowing 21 and 24 points in the first two games, there is really no reason to complain, but the second half of Sunday's game was not their best performance.
The first quarter and a half, they looked spectacular. Each Miami possession you could just feel how energized the defense was and Miami could not move the football whatsoever. It was not until Jimmy Garopollo went down when the life was sucked out of the building and Miami was able to put together a field goal drive just before halftime, getting on the board making it a score of 24-3. Prior to that drive, Ryan Tannehill was just 4-9 for 40 yards, but he certainly turned it around after that.
After orchestrating what looked like another good drive to start the second half, Miami RB Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball and the New England defense was able to get off the field without giving up any further points, but that was not the same story the rest of the game.
Fortunately, with a 28 point cushion in the second half, a defense has to play very poorly in order to blow that kind of lead, but New England sure did come awfully close.
After Jimmy G went town, Tannehill went 28-of-36 with 349 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It appeared as though Miami was specifically targeted probowl CB Malcolm Butler, and they were successful doing so going 8-8 on him for over 100 yards, most of which throwing to Jarvis Landry.
In the second half alone, Tannehill was an astonishing 21-22 before Miami's last drive, quite a turn around from his play in the first half I must say.
Outside of Chris Long and Duron Harmon, no one on the Pats defense played worth mentioning, which was just down right strange after how well they had played in the first half.
After getting the ball down by 7 with around a minute to go, Miami had one last shot to tie the game, but Tannehill's 4th & 5 pass from the New England 29 was intercepted by Duron Harmon, saving the Patriots from a colossal meltdown.
So, what was it that went wrong for Patricia's defense? The biggest factor was the absence of defensive play caller/captain, linebacker Dont'a Hightower who was inactive because of a knee injury. Hightower would have likely helped New England in getting to the quarterback, which they could have used after not sacking Tannehill one time all afternoon, and of course through communication and pre-snap adjustments.
You also have to account for the fact that they are all humans, and when you lose your quarterback who was playing fantastic, and look up in the second half to see that your leading 31-3, it's very possible the defense just simply took their feet of the pedal, and couldn't get back into their first half groove.
I see no reason for concern however, especially given that the same Arizona offense they held to just 3 touchdowns last Sunday was able to put up a whopping 40 point performance on Tampa Bay this week.
Nonetheless, the team is 2-0 even without Brady OR Rob Gronkowski, so there is no understating the importance of that win, regardless of the score.