Going into the 2019 season it seems that the only defenses getting hype are the Bears and Rams. While fair, the New England Patriots defense deserves the same credit.
The reason the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII was not because of the high-powered offense led by Tom Brady. Instead, it was the incredible performance by a defense that was completely overlooked all of last season.
While cornerback Stephon Gilmore was honored last season as a First-Team All-Pro selection as he established himself as a true lockdown corner, everyone started clicking going into the playoffs. Heading into the 2019 season, though, people seem to forget that.
This was a defense that managed to contain NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the NFL’s number one offense twice (in the regular season and playoffs) to pull out two victories against the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs, including one time in Arrowhead.
New England then managed to hold the NFL’s second-best offense to three total points in the biggest game of the season as they thwarted the Los Angeles Rams. The respect for the Patriots defense needs to be much more prevalent. Despite seemingly losing key pieces year after year, they still compete at a high level.
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This offseason, the Patriots lost top pass rusher Trey Flowers in free agency as he moved on to the Detroit Lions for a big-money contract. The way New England responded was classic Bill Belichick, trading for three-time Pro Bowler Michael Bennett. Subsequently, their pass rush remains largely unaffected.
Devin McCourty is one of the most underrated defenders of the past decade and continues to be the definition of the “Patriot Way” on the defense for New England. Jason McCourty, Devin’s brother, is now returning for his second season after finally getting his Super Bowl ring.
Jason proved to be worth the money in the Super Bowl alone when he recovered against a wide-open Brandin Cooks in the end zone to hit the ball out and keep the Rams from scoring a touchdown.
Dont’a Hightower proves year in and year out to be one of the most clutch players on the defensive side of the ball and there are a number of plays to look back at in the Super Bowls of years past. As long as he stays healthy, he will continue to be that important player for the Patriots as time goes on.
Young players like cornerback J.C. Jackson and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley are going to be even better this season after showing incredibly positive signs at times last year as well. Other players that will make up the defense that is sure to impress are Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, rookie Chase Winovich and the returning Jamie Collins.
Chung and Harmon have been incredible key for the Patriots and most fans around the NFL may know nothing about either man. Winovich has an engine that will never stop which is why he fits perfectly on the Patriot. As for Collins, it is an opportunity to redeem himself. He was a bona fide Pro Bowler on the Patriots in his first run with the team and has impressed in OTAs already.
This defense has improved from last season which is a scary proposition for the rest of the NFL. Recognizing the Patriots defense should be commonplace for football fans at this point.