Patriots On The Verge Of Leading League In Scoring Defense

The Patriots defense has been somewhat of an unknown this season.

Throughout 2016 they’ve been among the leagues best in points allowed to opposing offenses, but looking at the slate of teams they’ve gone up against offers a counterpoint to the teams statistical success on defense, and offers reason for doubt.

With that said, this years defense is aiming to do something that just one other Patriots team in franchise history has managed to do, allow the fewest points in the NFL for an entire season.

The 2016 Pats can join the 2003 Super Bowl winning squad as the only two teams in franchise history to surrender fewer points than any other team in the league.

The 15.7 points per game that the Patriots defense has allowed through the first 15 games of the 2016 season would be the lowest rate of any team in the last three seasons. Also, to be knocked off the top spot the Pats would have to allow a season-high 34 points to the Miami Dolphins in their final game of the season, and Seattle would have to pitch their first shutout since Week 3, 2015 against the albeit weak 49ers offense.

Skeptics of the Patriots defense point to the fact that the highest rated quarterback the team has faced this season is Miami’s now-wounded passer Ryan Tannehill, who ranks 12th in the NFL with a 93.5 passer rating. They would also mention that the team had forced just 9 turnovers and 16 sacks in their first 9 games of the season.

Since their worst performance of the year in Week 10 against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, the Patriots are second in the NFL with 18 sacks in their last six games, more than they had in their first nine games of the season combined (16).

Once the pressure ramped up, so did the turnovers, as the Pats are tied for second in the NFL with 12 takeaways over the last five weeks, three more than in the eleven weeks prior.

Leading the charge for the Patriots all season has been top cornerback Malcolm Butler. Butler had himself his best game of his career in terms of takeaways against the Jets in Week 16, becoming just the sixth Patriot to force three turnovers in a single-game. Overall, Butler leads the team with six takeaways on the season.

Along with Butler, the emergence of second-year pass rusher Trey Flowers has bolstered a Patriots defensive front that was struggling to get to the quarterback in the first half of the season. Since Week 8, Flowers has 7.0 sacks, which is just one fewer than Oakland’s Khalil Mack and one more than reigning Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.

The Patriots defense may not be as battle tested as we would like with the playoffs looming, but over the last 6 weeks they’ve backed up their league-best scoring defense with a more impressive level of play.