Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stats, schmats: Pats are tough

Made it to the big show despite second-worst D

  • Print

DAVIE, Fla. -- History tells us you can throw out the statistics when it comes to breaking down the New England Patriots' defence.

Last year, the Patriots finished 31st in total defence, 31st against the pass and 17th against the run and still made it to the Super Bowl. This year, they've improved only slightly -- to 27th overall, 29th against the pass and 12th against the run -- and again are among the favorites to reach the Super Bowl.

"We know how well we can play as a defence," said Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, a Boynton Beach native and former University of Miami standout who this past week was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl. "We just have to keep doing what we've been doing, and that's creating turnovers, making negative plays and playing good defence.

"At the end, the biggest stat of them all is winning."

It always seems incongruous that a team coached by Bill Belichick -- who was Bill Parcells' defensive co-ordinator on the New York Giants' championship teams of 1986 and 1990 -- would be so much more proficient on offence than defence, but wide receiver Brian Hartline, whose Dolphins will face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium today, said it's a calculated approach.

"It's kind of bend but don't break," Hartline said. "They give up yards, but then they hold you to field goals. And anytime you hold a team to a field goal, especially with that offense, that's a win for the defense."

Belichick has done his best to address the shortcomings, inserting five new players into the defence this year in rookies Chandler Jones (defensive end), Dont'a Hightower (linebacker) and Alfonzo Dennard (cornerback) as well as veterans Steve Gregory (safety) and Aqib Talib (cornerback).

Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano said what makes the interchangeable parts so effective is that the Patriots change their scheme regularly.

"They get away from their tendencies; they're great in that respect," he said.

Fasano added that New England's defensive players -- such as two-time Pro Bowl choice Jerod Mayo and fellow linebacker Brandon Spikes, a former Florida Gator -- shouldn't be underrated.

"They have a good front seven," he said. "You have to play a solid, mistake-free game to be effective against them."

Takeaways, of course, have been the key to the Patriots' success. Their plus-23 turnover ratio -- 39 takeaways and 16 giveaways -- is easily the best in the NFL.

"They are opportunistic," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "They don't have a ton of sacks, but they force quarterbacks into bad decisions."

Added tackle Jonathan Martin, "It's hard to look at numbers and determine how good a defence is. When you watch film, they're one of the better defences we've faced."

Martin and the Dolphins' offensive line caught a break four weeks ago when Jones, a first-round pick in April, and third-year defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, another former Gator, were both out for the Patriots -- Jones with an ankle injury and Cunningham because of a suspension that ended last week. While Cunningham might play sparingly, Martin expects a battle with Jones, who has six sacks and 12 QB hurries.

"He's long, athletic, a good player," Martin said.

Hartline, meanwhile, said Talib, who arrived Nov. 1 in a trade with Tampa Bay, has shored up the secondary.

"They've always had questions about their defensive backs, so having that guy there gives them some confidence," Hartline said.

With New England's defence having allowed fewer than 20 points in four of the last five games, Wilfork said he has seen signs that the unit is coming together at the right time.

 

-- The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 30, 2012 B4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

J.P. Vigier’s Whiteboard: Coach Maurice’s first full season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Aerial view of Portage and Main, The Esplanade Riel, Provencher Bridge over the Red River, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and The Forks near the Assiniboine River, October 21st, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) CMHR
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Deer in Canola field near Elma, Manitoba. 060706.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Which Jets prospect has the best chance of making NHL team this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google