We continue with a collection of excerpts from this year’s Patriots Season Preview book with a look at the strides the defensive took in 2016 and how their 2017 offseason will shape the unit this fall.
Still, the defense didn’t garner much respect during the season. They were seen as a unit that feasted on bad quarterbacks and offenses. Maybe there was some truth to that, but you can only play who is on your schedule, and the number of poor offenses that litter the NFL landscape isn’t the Patriots problem. They took care of business while other defenses had their ups and downs even against some of those bad offenses.
What mattered most for this defense was how they finished. Dont’a Hightower’s game-changing strip sack in the Super Bowl opened the door for a Patriots comeback, and when it was all on the line, with the Falcons inside field goal range for a game-sealing kick, the defense pushed them back, forced a punt and league MVP Matt Ryan never saw the ball again.
When you line up the last four Patriots teams that went to the Super Bowl it’s the defenses that were the story. Yes, Tom Brady went into berserker mode in Super Bowl 51, but without Hightower, who also had a game-saving goal line tackle in Super Bowl 49, and Malcolm Butler‘s interception, we’d still be lamenting the defenses of Super Bowl 42 and 46, who couldn’t make that one last big play to help win the game.
Hopefully 2017’s defense has the same kind of big plays on the big stage ability.
Here’s the introduction to the defensive player previews.