Closing out Week 4 game against Bills was a breath of fresh air for Patriots defense
When an NFL offense manages to only produce 224 yards of total offense and score six points, that team usually loses. But that wasn't the case when the New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 4. The Patriots managed to win a 16-10 game despite a poor offensive outing. Why? Because, in case you didn't know already - their defense is elite.
New England's defensive outing wasn't as perfect as we've seen them put together this season. They did give up a touchdown - something we hadn't seen them do to date - and they allowed over 100 rushing yards to 36 year old running back Frank Gore.
But that didn't matter.
It didn't matter, because despite getting pounded on the ground, New England's defense was swallowing up passes when Josh Allen and backup Matt Barkley threw the ball downfield. New England's defense gathered four turnovers, all coming on interceptions from JC Jackson (2), Devin McCourty (1), and Jamie Collins (1). Both of Buffalo's QBs combined for 240 passing yards, but were sacked four times, had the four turnovers and threw no touchdowns.
Without veteran linebacker Dont'a Hightower (shoulder) the Patriots defense showed how deep and talented they are in a game that required a full 60 minutes of play - another facet that hasn't been completely necessary early in a season in which New England has blown out opponents by a combined score of 132-27.
"It's fun," said Patriots captain Devin McCourty during his postgame press conference following the Week 4 win. "When we went out there, especially at the end, where it was 16-10, all we kept saying was 'if we don't give up any points, we win.' For me, being in my 10th year, I've been here when it's the opposite (situation), where it felt like every time we went out there we gave up a touchdown or a field goal and then our offense went out and scored.
"I just think of Kansas City (Chiefs) last year at home, score is 40-43 (he chuckles). It's all about having each other's back. It's not going to go well every time on both sides of the ball. You're going to have dog fights like this. You just have to be ready to go."
McCourty also credited the offense, who despite having an overall lackluster day, put the defense in prime position to succeed and close out the game for New England.
"I thought what the offense did at the end, being able to run some clock and run the football, and then when Buffalo got the ball back they had to get going, they had to get in that two-minute style offense, I think that really changed the game. It made them one dimensional, and it gave us a chance to rush and cover and gave us a chance to end the game."
Unlike in past seasons, a Patriots victory didn't come down to Tom Brady and the offense making a play in the dwindling seconds of the game in dramatic fashion. Instead, the game was put in the hands of a defense that is more than capable of closing out a win by making plays. They did just that, which came in the form of a game-sealing turnover by Collins.
If New England's offense continues to struggle against formidable opponents going forward, they will need their defense to continue to find ways to make plays and give the offense extra opportunities to put points on the board. With the way this team is constructed, and with the schedule up ahead, it seems like they will be able to scrape out wins that way. The real question is if the Patriots can win games like this in the postseason.
Follow Devon Clements on Twitter @DevClemNFL.