While the Patriots defense has been trending up the last few games, I was surprised to see they had fallen from a mid-season 23rd-ranked run defense to 30th in Football Outsider’s DVOA, an analytic that weighs situation and opponent. This is of course about when Dont’a Hightower went on IR, so some drop-off should be expected but it hadn’t been all that glaring to me recently.
If they do have a bad run defense it hasn’t hurt them in the win column. Last week against the Bills they gave up their second-highest yardage total this season (183) and held them to three points. Opening night against the Chiefs (185) remains the highest and only time a team actually ran to victory over New England.
Yardage wise they’re 26th, yards-per-carry they’re 32nd.
So is this a real flaw for the Pats’ defense? Will LeVeon Bell be able to exploit it? Could the Steelers ride that to victory? Miami got a season-low 67 yards on the ground vs. New England and doesn’t look like they’ll do much more this Monday night.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the bigger running plays against and how much impact they had on the game.