The Patriots’ Defensive Collapse Began Weeks Ago, But Was Perfectly Awful Against the Bills

The Patriots’ defense was absolutely miserable against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. In a 21-12 loss, they surrendered over 500 yards of offense and nine touchdowns. They had one sack all game long and were constantly getting burned by their opponents in coverage down field. Their failures didn’t start to become apparent until early last week when defensive coordinator Matt Patricia sent four new starters onto the field for his first regular season game with them as well as Darrelle Revis playing 100% of snaps for the first time this year at cornerback…

The “where do the patriots play” is a question that has been asked for years. The Patriots’ Defensive Collapse Began Weeks Ago, But Was Perfectly Awful Against the Bills.

The Patriots' Defensive Collapse Began Weeks Ago, But Was Perfectly Awful Against the Bills

What started five weeks ago in the warm confines of the RCA Dome in Indianapolis and concluded Saturday night in the freezing Buffalo air began five weeks ago in the warm confines of the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

The New England Patriots defense was being lauded as an excellent squad in the NFL after their Week 14 bye. The exclamation point came in their last game before the bye, when they held Josh Allen and the Bills to 230 total yards and 10 points in the wild winds of Buffalo.

When the Colts led 20-0 after three quarters in that Week 15 game, it wasn’t seen as a sign that the powerful defense was about to unravel. And Bill Belichick proved it when he shot a contentious field goal on 4th-and-goal, expecting his defense to rise up and stop their opponent, handing the ball back to Mac Jones and the offense, as it had done for the previous 13 weeks.

The defense, on the other hand, did not rise to the occasion. That night was not the case. In the 2021 season, there will be no such thing.

And in a startling exhibition of incompetence on Saturday night, the Patriots defense’s downfall was exposed open for everyone to see.

As the Patriots defense whiffed all night, the Bills throw a historic perfect game.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots endured a shocking loss the the Bills

Bill Belichick and the Patriots endured a shocking loss the the Bills Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images | Bill Belichick

No NFL team has ever played a “perfect” game until Saturday night, defined as a game with no punts, field goals, or turnovers. Neither during the regular season nor in the playoffs.

But that’s exactly what the Bills did to the Patriots in the Wild Card game, scoring touchdowns on each of their seven drives en route to a 47-17 rout. Only a pair of failed extra points kept the Bills from scoring a perfect game, but the fact remains that they put the ball in the end zone every time they had the ball.

The Bills did not had a single punt in a game against the Patriots for the second time in four weeks. The Patriots’ defense had zero sacks, zero tackles for loss, and just one quarterback hit on Saturday night. The 47 points surrendered were the fourth-highest total in team history. Only the Patriots’ 46-10 defeat in Super Bowl XX in 1986 was a worse postseason defeat in franchise history.

The performance was “embarrassing,” according to defensive captain Devin McCourty, who is now a free agent.

“I mean, I think they just did a fantastic job of producing big plays and a terrific job with the running game.” I believe the early scramble placed them in scoring position, (Josh) Allen. We didn’t receive a halt, as I had said.

“Every offensive play they made was a terrific one for them.” And you’ve got no chance of winning a game like that.”

Down the stretch, the Patriots defense’s stars were not set in their favor.

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The Patriots defense was allowing an NFL-best 15.38 points per game after 13 games. The Patriots, on the other hand, allowed an average of 27.2 points per game from Week 15 through Saturday’s rout. The Patriots finished 1-4 in the last five weeks, with their lone win a 50-10 thrashing of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Patriots, on the other hand, allowed at least 27 points in each of their four defeats to Buffalo (twice), Indianapolis, and the Miami Dolphins. In the first 13 weeks, they only allowed two games with a score of 27 points or higher. The Patriots had three turnovers against Jacksonville, but just one in each of their other four defeats.

And, with a run-first offense and a rookie quarterback who struggled to put up big numbers, the Patriots fell behind 20-0 to Indianapolis in Week 15, 20-7 to the Bills in Week 16, 17-0 to Miami in Week 18, and eventually 27-0 to the Jets on Saturday night.

Over the first 13 weeks, the defense’s two greatest players embodied the team’s downfall. After 13 weeks, defensive end Matt Judon has 1212 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, and 14 tackles for a loss against opposing quarterbacks. Judon had 0 sacks, one QB hit, and one tackle for a loss in the last five weeks. Judon was only on the field for 39% of the Bills’ snaps on Saturday.

J.C. Jackson was so dominant in the secondary, he earned second-team All-Pro honors. But according to Next Gen Stats, Jackson was torched by Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs, the only receiver that really mattered to the Patriots’ fortunes. Against the rest of the league, Diggs held the receivers he covered to 49.8% completion percentage, 5.9 yards per target, and a 5/24 TD/interception ratio.

Jackson gave up a 66.7 percent completion rate, 11.7 yards per target, and three touchdowns versus one interception against Diggs. Jackson’s performance versus Diggs matched the teams’ performance against each other. That’s why the Bills are still in the game and the Patriots aren’t.

Questions about the defense’s future abound before the season begins.

Under Bill Belichick’s leadership, the Patriots have never:

Allowing 25+ points in the first half (BUF: 27 pts)

In a playoff game, you’re behind by more than 20 points at halftime (losing by 24)

✔️ Allowed a QB to have 2+ pass TD & 50+ rush yds in a playoff game (Josh Allen: 2 TD & 63 rush yds)

— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 16, 2022

There are disappearances like Judon’s in the last five games, and then there are disappearances like the ones that may happen in the following two months. Jackson, McCourty, and Dont’a Hightower, another postseason no-show, are now all free agents. Jackson is considered to be the best defensive back available in free agency, and there is speculation that the Patriots may sign him to a franchise tag. If they were to say, though, both Hightower and McCourty would most likely have to take less money. And, considering how the defense crumbled in the last five weeks, a complete revamp may be required.

If that’s the case, the NFL Draft is the most probable avenue for change, given the Patriots have very little salary cap flexibility this summer following their wild free agency spree last year.

On Sunday, Bill Belichick announced, “We’re on to the offseason.” However, not straight away. The Patriots are still coming to terms with the Bills’ historic thrashing.

“We all need to take a step back, gather our breath, and look at things from a different perspective.” “We’ll speak about specific scenarios at some time,” Belichick added. “Players who aren’t under contract, players whose future with the club or individual circumstances are unknown, they will be dealt with at a later date, definitely not today, tomorrow, or the following day.”

Pro Football Reference provided the statistics.

RELATED: What the New England Patriots’ Offseason Strategy Should Be in 2022

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