By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — This is not a defensive era in the National Football League. Not by a longshot.
Watching the Patriots, though, you’d never know it.
Bill Belichick’s defense this season has been lights-out, and that’s putting it very, very lightly.
It didn’t take long for the Patriots’ “Boogeymen” defense to rear its ugly head on Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns. Less than 10 minutes into the game, Nick Chubb ran the ball to the right side but had the ball knocked out of his hands by the foot of teammate Joel Bitonio.
Dont’a Hightower scooped up the loose ball and scampered 26 yards for a touchdown.
That touchdown marked the fourth touchdown scored by the Patriots’ defense through the eight games of the season.
In that same time, they’ve allowed just four touchdowns.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 27, 2019
A Browns touchdown later in the game brought the season total of touchdowns scored and allowed to a tie at four.
The Patriots’ defense has touchdowns from Hightower and Kyle Van Noy on fumble returns, and on interception returns from Jamie Collins and Stephon Gilmore. The defense has allowed three passing touchdown (Colt McCoy to Steven Sims, at Washington, Week 5; Daniel Jones to Golden Tate, vs. New York Giants, Week 6; Baker Mayfield to Demetrius Harris, vs. Cleveland in Week 8) and one rushing touchdowns (Josh Allen, at Buffalo, Week 4).
The Patriots’ defense actually maintained that one-touchdown lead over opposing offenses for some time on Sunday. Chubb broke a long run on cutback against the Patriots’ run defense, and the second-year back was off to the races on Cleveland’s first play after the kickoff that followed Hightower’s touchdown. Yet Jonathan Jones put forth a tremendous effort to chase down Chubb from behind to punch the ball loose. Devin McCourty recovered at the New England 4-yard line to keep Cleveland out of the end zone.
In doing so, the defense kept their touchdown lead over opposing offenses intact.
On the Browns’ next possession … Lawrence Guy intercepted an underhanded shovel pass by Baker Mayfield on the first play of that drive, giving New England its third turnover in the first quarter of the football game. (Guy was also credited with the forced fumble on Chubb’s first fumble.)
That made it three forced turnovers on three straight plays for New England’s defense.
That is not how things are supposed to work. Yet for Belichick’s 2019 defense, that is the norm.