Patriots Defense Is Exceptional at Pressuring QBs Without Extra Rushers
When you talk about the New England Patriots defense, you may mention their elite secondary or their versatile linebackers. But not enough thought is put into how great their pass rush can be, especially when there is no blitz involved.
A recent stat shared my NFL Matchup on ESPN may have you rethinking about what makes New England's dominant defense go in 2019.
NFL Matchup showed the top teams at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks without extra rushers. No. 2 on the list is the Patriots, who manage to pressure opposing QBs 28.4% of the time without a blitz. No. 1 on the list is the Los Angeles Rams with a 28.5% QB pressure rate without a blitz.
When looking at this stat, one should also think about where the four or less pass rushers are coming from on the field. The Patriots often dial up plays that aren't blitzes, but have a linebacker rushing the passer because of the formations they use frequently. That is also why veteran linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. leads the team with six sacks, Kyle Van Noy has 4.5 and Dont’a Hightower has two.
Having the ability to generate pressure on an opposing QB with just four defenders frees up more players to drop back into coverage, which makes it extremely difficult for offenses to move the ball up the field in passing situations. This is part of the reason why New England's defense is still on a historic pace despite giving up 37 points to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. It is also in part the reason why several QBs this year have turned the ball over at a league-high rate when they faced the Patriots.
Credit Bill Belichick for keeping opposing QBs guessing by dialing up a four-man rush in exotic ways and having the right talent to succeed with that formula.