As you’d expect there’s plenty of panic about the Patriots’ defense after Thursday night’s blow out loss. Last year the defense led the league in points against but people were still worried that they actually were not good. So after giving up the most points and yards under Belichick it’s understandable that the defense is a major focal point of the ire.
Discerning between what problems are real and what problems can be chalked up to the first game of the season on a short week against a good opponent is the key here and when you really break things down the real problems are obvious. Whether or not the Patriots have the personnel at this point to fix those problems will be a point of debate, but I think we can all agree that the defense is always in a somewhat experimental phase in September and that they’re always far more sound down the line, even when they have to throw guys like Joe Vellano and Chris Jones in the heart of their defense early on (2013).
One point that’s very much worth pointing out is how effective Kansas City was at exploiting the communication issues on defense. Eric Mangini said when he was with the Browns, a big offensive focus for going against the Patriots was having multiple shifts and motions that forced the Patriots to adjust their calls. He called the Patriots defense “rule-based” so every movement by the offense required 11 adjustment calls on defense. The more movement the more chance at miscommunication, and the Chiefs seemed to do that repeatedly.
Their pre-snap motion seemed to mix the Patriots up quite a few times, resulting in blown coverages and too many wide open receivers. First, not all teams have the kind of versatility that the Chiefs have in this regard, especially with a mobile quarterback. Second, this communication will improve for the Patriots, whether Dont’a Hightower plays every single game or not.
There are just two simple keys for the defense as we move on to the Saints — win on first down and don’t give up big plays. That’s how simple it is.