Despite being the first team in NFL history to allow five straight 300 yard passers in a single season, the New England Patriots defense looked immensely better Thursday night in Tampa, grinding out a 19-14 victory thanks in large part to the woes of Nick Folk. The defense, despite coming in to Thursday’s game ranking last in the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed, showed signs of improvement, and in my mind, the defense is not the unit that could cost the Patriots the shot at a return trip to the Super Bowl.
To me, the struggles of the offensive line thus far have been far more concerning than the defensive woes, because New England returns the exact same starting group as 2016, a year in which Brady was only sacked 15 times (in just 12 games), yet he has been sacked 16 times already in just five games. Brady has been hit 32 times, meaning he has been hit on 17% of his drop backs this year, a rate that is certainly not ideal for the 40-year old quarterback. Despite Brady’s seemingly impenetrable youth, it is now more important than ever to protect him, and the offensive line needs to do its job and step it up.
And it’s not like Brady needs a ton of time too; on Thursday night, when he released the ball in under 2.6 seconds (13 attempts), Brady’s quarterback rating was 116, and his adjusted completion percentage was 92.3%, meaning all Brady needs is roughly 3 seconds in order to be successful, yet the offensive line isn’t even giving him that.