Football

Once again, defense is leading the way

Defense, according to all NFL sages, wins championships.

As a reference point, consider the Patriots. However far they go this season will be a product of their defense. That much was reaffirmed again Sunday afternoon.

Tennessee’s Titans could testify to that, unless they consider a 36-13 beatdown a mere blip on their radar.

Six straight wins have lifted Bill Belichick’s latest salvage operation to within snorting distance of the of an AFC East title. They are a handful of percentage ahead of the Buffalo Bills, who spent their Thanksgiving getting torched by the Colts.

Injuries, tummy aches and evil spirits aside, there is something telling about a 41-14 loss to a team languishing in .500 limbo. It might be that the Bills were never as good as they were pegged when the season began.

That theory could soon be confirmed … or slapped down. New England will play at Buffalo next Monday night and will meet them again on the day after Christmas at Gillette Stadium.

If the Pats’ defense continues its ascent into the rarified air of superiority, Josh Allen is about to take a whooping, dragging his teammates down with him.

Not only did the Pats shut down Tennessee – and wipe a snarky smirk off Ryan Tannehill’s face – they provided their offensive brothers with lots of scoring chances.

As December dawns, there is not much to dislike about the Patriots defense. Their resemblance to their defense when the dynasty was born is striking. They give up some yards, but when the end zone comes into focus, they become Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown.

Unless someone is inclined to let loose a blizzard of statistical analysis, points against remains the bottom line for any defense.

It’s tough to complain over the details of the domination the Patriots have been meting out lately.

Let’s try, anyway.

One troubling statistic tells us that the Patriots are ranked 24th in red-zone touchdowns. Is it part of what a team must endure with a rookie quarterback, even one enjoying a fair amount of success? Is it the loss of James White? Can it be dismissed as simple quirkiness?

Nick Folk was responsible for 18 points Sunday. The Pats’ scoring drives began at the Tennessee 41, the Tennessee 37, and the Tennessee 21.

The defense and special teams merit a hearty round of applause for that sort of field position.

The annoying part was watching offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is said to be a genius and in the running for any head coaching position on the planet, persist in trying to establish a running game after it became clear that the Titans were having no part of it. For the day, the Pats rushed for 105 yards.

Persistence is an admirable trait … to a point. Then there is stubbornness, which has a sneaky way of decaying into a fault.

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