Bend Don’t Break is what frustrated fans know as the Patriots’ favored style of defensive strategy. They don’t sell out by sending a ton of pressure, instead they preach not getting beat deep and good tackling. That forces opposing offenses to continually execute, something most of them can’t do for any sustained period without mistakes, whether it’s third-down red-zone stops, takeaways or missed field goals.
Sometimes, often on the first drive of the game, opponents seem to move the ball right down the field, only to stall out and have to settle for a field goal or worse. From there the Patriots’ constriction begins, often aided by turnovers, and that simply gives Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense enough margin to win the game.
But the BDB leaves a bad taste in many dismissive minds. That’s because the Pats always tend to give up yards. In nine of the last 16 seasons they were in the bottom half of the league in yards-per-drive. The last two seasons saw dramatic improvement, with them finishing 7th in 2015 and 8th in 2016, their best back-to-back seasons under Belichick. Only once (2003) were they inside the top five at 4th.
Your eyes are not deceiving you. Teams consistently move the ball on New England’s defense. They just don’t score, and that’s the Bend Don’t Break.
So how does the 2017 team stack up so far? It’s developed from a total Bend AND Break edition early in the season to one far more typical of the last 16 years of Patriots defenses. Let’s take a look: