It’s driven you insane hundreds of times at this point. The Patriots defense is picked apart by a supposedly mediocre offense until miraculously stopping them in the red zone and forcing a field goal. Some seasons it feels like it happens on the first drive of every single game.
Yes, this is the Bend-Don’t-Break, a mantra muttered by football-philes like myself who have bought into Bill Belichick’s philosophy that sound coverage and tackling can make up for not attacking a quarterback with blitzers on every down. The Patriots certainly pick their spots to blitz defensive backs, but generally their philosophy is about 11 guys all doing their jobs and it’s hard to argue with the results even if the stats don’t rank them near the top of the league.
What matters most of course is points, and the Patriots have ranked below 13th in the league in points-per-drive just twice before this season.
My statistical way to breakdown the Bend Don’t Break is to rank plays- and yards-per-drive (BEND) and points- and turnovers-per-drive (BREAK). While the results in 2017 are expectedly putrid they’re not exactly in uncharted territory and there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.
Here’s a look at the Bend-Don’t-Break chart to see how the 2017 Pats stack up after five games.
Not good, Bob. But 2002 and 2005 saw the Pats Bending and Breaking as well. Of course this year’s points-per-drive are up over two for the first time ever, though part of this can be attributed to league-wide scoring upticks.
The 2010 and 2011 defenses were pretty bad too, but both had takeaways at an excellent rate and that saved otherwise terrible defenses. Still, this defense is giving up more than two more yards-per-drive than that shredded 2011 defense, easily an all-time worst.
Any way you cut it, this defense is historically bad… so far. There were improvements against the Bucs, but it will be impossible to spin these numbers as anything other than epically bad for a while. It will takes a few weeks of excellent defensive play to see any statistical ray of hope.