ShareThis Page

Patriots' defense porous for a reason

| Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011

Tom Brady has made opposing defenses look bad for years. Apparently, the New England quarterback is doing the same to his own this season.

Numbers don't paint a pretty picture for the Patriots' defense, which is yielding more than 300 passing yards per game.

But Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said such statistics are skewed since opposing teams frequently play from behind -- and throw the ball a lot -- because of Brady's brilliance.

"If you come in and think they're the 32nd-best defense in football, you're kidding yourself," Tomlin said of the Patriots, who visit Heinz Field on Sunday for an AFC showdown. "That's a function of them just whacking people and being way out in front."

The Patriots (5-1) have scored at least 30 points in all but one of their games. They are coming off a bye, and they are returning to the stadium where they have beaten the Steelers three consecutive times, including in 2010.

And now, the defense
New England has been known more for its offense since Tom Brady has been playing quarterback for the Patriots. Here is how New England has fared in four major defensive categories for its first six games:
Yards per game NFL rank
Rushing 101.5 8
Passing 322.2 32
Total 423.7 32
Points per game NFL rank
Scoring 22.5 10 (tie)

Brady torched the Steelers last season in improving to 6-1 against them, including playoffs. He threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns in a 39-26 win, completing passes to eight receivers.

One of those receivers, Wes Welker, leads the NFL in receptions (51) and receiving yards per game (130.8). The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder is one of several Patriots receivers who present a matchup problem because of how New England uses him.

"He is extremely quick and elusive and very adept at getting away from jams along the line of scrimmage," Tomlin said of Welker. "They move him around quite a bit through a variety of formations and motions."

Ike Taylor is the Steelers' best player in pass coverage. But Tomlin said it anything but a foregone conclusion that Taylor will shadow Welker all game because the latter frequently lines up as a slot receiver.

"That might be a little bit out of Ike's comfort zone," Tomlin said. "Ike is an outside corner."

What might get Tomlin out of his comfort zone is envisioning a game in which the Steelers simply have to outscore the Patriots to beat them.

He sidestepped a question about it Tuesday. Tomlin later was asked if his background as a defensive coach precludes him from thinking that the Steelers have to score a certain number of points Sunday -- and game-plan accordingly.

"I would hope I wouldn't let ego, pride or anything of that nature, comfort zone, prohibit our teams from doing what's required for us to win," Tomlin said. "I fashion myself to be more intelligent than that."

The Steelers' offense accounted for 30 points last Sunday in Arizona. What pleased Tomlin most about the win was the offense marching 80 yards for a touchdown after the Cardinals had pulled to within three points of the lead.

The one area, Tomlin said, where the unit needs to improve: cutting down on mental mistakes that lead to penalties.

"We cannot have pre-snap and post-play penalties if we want to be the kind of offense that we desire to be," Tomlin said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.