By Justin McKinney, Sports Editor
While the Patriots 19-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday may have seemed far from impressive, the fact is is that that win was huge.
It is no secret what the Patriots weak link has been this season is the defense. In each of the Patriot’s two losses this season they have let up over thirty points and even in the Patriots wins the defense has been very far from solid.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was supposed to be a massive lift for the defense, has been nothing but a letdown. Gilmore thus far has seemed to be very uncomfortable in coverage and seems to have no clue what to do.
This has led to the Patriots secondary giving up more 20+ yard plays through five games this season than the entirety of all of last year. To add to this problem the run defense has been just as poor as they are currently 24th in the league against the rush and last overall.
However, this past Thursday the Patriots defense played well. While many will point to Nick Folk’s three missed kicks as a huge key to the Bucs low scoring day, the fact is the Patriots defense did Folk no favors.
Two of the three kicks that folk missed were over 45 yards. As a defense, if you are forcing a team to kick that deep that is exactly what you want. Even for an exceptional kicker a 45 yard kick is certainly no gimme.
Throughout the night Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston looked rushed and unable to get comfortable; the Patriots even garnered a couple of sacks. While the defense did let up 303 yards passing, they managed to only allow 84 yards rushing.
It was a classic example of a Belichick defense, bend but don’t break. Yes, on paper the Patriots let up a lot of passing yards, the Bucs could do nothing with the yardage as the defense forced long field goals.
Being that this season has essentially been the Tom Brady show featuring no help from the defense, it was very refreshing to see the defense play an active role in a win. Being that the Bucs have one of the best offenses in the league, it is a big confidence boost for the defense.
They faced a legit contender this week and they hung tough and played to win. Even Gilmore who has been a thorn in his own team’s side looked solid this weekend. For the first time this entire season he seemed to be in the right place at the right times.
With the Patriots next game being against the Jets, the potential for this defense to continue to improve is in their favor. The defense isn’t going to be fixed overnight but this week was a step in the right direction and with the Jets on the horizon, this week will be a week were Matt Patricia and his defense can work on the fundamentals that have been killing this defense early on.