By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots’ defense? It’s very good. Perhaps you’ve heard.
Likewise, the Patriots’ opponents? Bad. Very, very bad. You might have heard that, too.
As a result, the Patriots are sitting at 6-0, and their defense is looking historic, but everybody’s a little bit gun-shy about throwing that ’85 Bears or 2000 Ravens type of respect on them. That’s understandable.
Still, for the time being, it is a worthwhile exercise to look at the total points allowed by the Patriots to see how it compares to those all-time, historic, remembered-forever-in-our-hearts-and-minds defenses. While we can understand the lack of offensive potency faced by the Patriots thus far, we can use these numbers to see how the Patriots may move up or down the rankings when the quality of opponents increases over the second half of the year.
For the sake of ease, we’ll be looking exclusively at total points allowed. Considering the Patriots have given up 21 of their 48 points allowed on offense or special teams, that is not insignificant. Ultimately, though the record books care only about total points allowed, so the fact that the actual defense has only allowed 27 points through six full games cannot serve as the current point of comparison.
Even with those 21 points allowed by the offense and punt return teams, the Patriots are on pace to allow just 128 points this season. While they’re unlikely to be able to hold such a ridiculous pace, it’s worth noting that the Ravens allowed the fewest points in a single 16-game season in 2000, when they allowed 165. Only seven teams have allowed fewer than 200 points in a 16-game season, and after Thursday’s win, the Patriots provided the following information on how many points those teams allowed through their first six games.
POINTS ALLOWED THROUGH SIX GAMES IN A 16-GAME SEASON
New England Patriots, 2019: 48
1. 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 56
2. 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers: 63
3. 2000 Baltimore Ravens: 65
4. 1986 Chicago Bears: 67
5. 1978 Denver Broncos: 79
6. 2000 Tennessee Titans: 91
7. 1985 Chicago Bears: 98
Quality of opponent aside, that’s a pretty staggering sight.
And when you consider that — again — roughly 44 percent of the points allowed by the Patriots thus far were not given up by the defense, it’s not altogether impossible for the team to carry on at a similar clip through the end of the year.
In terms of scoring offenses, the Patriots have faced some of the very worst the NFL has to offer this year. They’ve faced the Dolphins (32nd), Jets (31st). Redskins (30th), Bills (26th), Giants (24th), and Steelers (22nd). They do have some much better teams on their schedule, including the Ravens (1st), Chiefs (4th), Eagles (7th), Cowboys (T-9th) and Texans (T-9th). But they also have rematches with the Jets, Bills and Dolphins, plus meetings with the Bengals (29th) and Browns (25th).
When examined that way, it’s fair to expect that this team — barring multiple injuries — will remain in this discussion of all-time great defenses through the end of the regular season.
Of course, though, it’s what happens after that regular season that will matter most. There’s a reason that everyone remembers the ’85 Bears and not the ’86 Bears, and that has everything to do with the shiny Lombardi Trophy taken home in one year and the stunning playoff one-and-done the following year.
In that sense, the Patriots should end up having themselves quite the opportunity. After limiting the Rams to three points in Super Bowl LIII, a championship won the following year that’s backboned by the defense would most certainly put this current group of Patriots among the greatest defenses in the history of the sport.
There’s a long, long, long way to go in that regard. But through six games, these Patriots are well on their way.