While Patriots offense gets headlines, defense is breaking opponents’ spirits | Chris Mason – MassLive.com

New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9) during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)AP
FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots defense isn’t just beating teams right now. They’re suffocating opponents with break-their-spirit beatdowns.
While Mac Jones and the offense fill hours of talk radio airtime — such is life on that side of the ball — New England’s defense is quietly keeping the season afloat. And doing it in style.
Before the bye, New England whooped the Colts so soundly that they fired their coach and hired a guy that’s only coaching experience had come at Hebron Christian Academy. Sunday was more of the same: The Patriots held the Jets to two second-half yards. Yes, two total yards. Zach Wilson’s offense opened the second half with five straight three-and-outs and the quarterback started getting into it with his teammates on the sideline.
After the 10-3 Patriots win, Jets coach Robert Saleh had a succinct assessment of his team’s play: “It was dog (expletive).” From there, Wilson refused to accept any real accountability. “It’s windy as hell,” he said, before announcing he didn’t feel they’d let the defense down. Anybody who’d watched the game had seen the Patriots wholly drive him nuts for the second time in three weeks.
That’s becoming a trend.
Ten games into the season, the Patriots defense sits fourth in the NFL in yards allowed (302.8) and second in points (16.9). There’s no more dismissing this as a small sample size. On Sunday, they held the Jets to 103 total yards.
“Complete domination,” defensive lineman Deatrich Wise said. “That’s kind of what we wanted to do and wanted to establish that this game. We left some plays out on the field the last time we played them. Coming off the bye, we knew what we were going to get. We wanted to stop the run and affect the pass and I believe we did that.”
Wise is one of the reasons to believe this defense is sustainable. With his evolution into a legitimate pass rushing threat, the Patriots have been getting pressure with four. It’s a recipe for success. On the other edge, Matthew Judon is wrecking games. His 13.5 sacks are the most in the NFL and he’s emerged as a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
“Judon is one-of-one,” cornerback Jalen Mills said.
It hasn’t been perfect for the Patriots. Mobile quarterbacks have been a little kryptonite and led to a couple what-happened-there losses, like the one to the Bears, but Judon is encouraged by the way his group has bounced back. They haven’t allowed a touchdown in back-to-back weeks and opponents are averaging 7.67 points per game since losing to Chicago.
“I think that we’re resilient,” Judon said. “We have some games that it looks like we’re all traffic cones, and we have some games that we didn’t play well. But over the last few weeks, we’ve been coming to work, we’ve been talking, we’ve been communicating, and we’ve just been gelling. We’re in a groove right now, but we have to force that.”
There are tougher tasks ahead for the Patriots defense. They have a Thanksgiving date with the 8-2 Vikings, will spend Christmas Eve with Joe Burrow, and two showdowns with Josh Allen loom large on the schedule. But they’re playing their best football at the right time, and believe there’s still more room to grow.
“It’s always beautiful when you have guys on the team who don’t really care who gets the credit as long as the job gets done, and we pride ourselves on doing just that,” linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley said. “We look to do that and we look to progress. Obviously, we had a good game today but there are also some things that we left out there that we would like to have back. So, always some things to clean up and I think that is the type of thing that keeps us going: The motivation that we could be perfect.”
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