I have never thought so highly of a Defense that just gave up 30 points. Aside from some suspect tackling from the Safeties, there were a lot of positives to take from their performance.
Did they give up some plays?
Of course they did!
When the New England Patriots run the Pick & Roll better than most NBA teams, you can’t help giving up plays down the field. The illegal picks became so consistent that is was laughable to watch. I will discuss this very topic further later in the week.
A healthy Sean Lee – combined with the returning duo of Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy – really made a difference for the defense. If Tom Brady sat back in the pocket, he had to deal with pressure the entire game.
While the team could not add onto their five first half sacks, they were still able to make Brady uncomfortable. If the Offense had given them any help, there is no doubt in my mind they would have sacked Brady several more times in the second half.
The Patriots did a good job adjusting their play calling to the situation of the game. They knew they couldn’t block the Cowboys Defensive Line and unfortunately did not have to take shots down the field in the second half.
However, they decided to run several (poorly disguised) pick plays that allowed them to convert several big plays for points they probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. They weren’t even able to get the ball to Rob Gronkowski consistently due to the play of rookie Byron Jones.
Gronk needed a well timed push to the back of Jones to make his biggest play of the game, yet he was held in check by the Cowboys first round selection. The way Jones played Sunday was one of the most positive aspects of this game.
Byron Jones may end up being a steal when looking back at the 2015 draft; he still has room to grow, physically, and he is only going to get better – practice by practice.
While on paper the Defense may not have had a great game, when you break down the game situations and look at the effort of the entire unit, there is a lot to be hopeful about moving forward.