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Patriots Defense: Overachieving, Underrated?

While New England's offense struggles, the defense is playing at an elite level through two weeks.

From the play-caller, to the line's miscommunication, to quarterback Mac Jones' health and even receiver Jakobi Meyers' doubts, there has already been a season's worth of consternation in just two weeks over the New England Patriots' offense.

Meanwhile, the Pats' defense has been quietly underrated and, so far, overachieving.

The offense - thanks to an acrobatic catch by Nelson Agholor and some clock-killing runs by Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson - showed signs of life in Sunday's 17-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. But it was again the stingy, solid-but-not-spectacular defense that allowed New England to stay in the game and, eventually, avoid the dreaded 0-2 start.

Nursing a three-point lead in the final 10 minutes, the defense forced two three-and-outs on consecutive Steelers' possessions before the offense ran out the final 6:33 with its most impressive drive of the season.

"I thought our play there in the fourth quarter - we came up with some big plays, two big three-and-out stops," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "A lot of guys contributed. I could sit here and rattle 'em off but obviously offense, defense, special teams - we had good contributions in all three areas and it's good complementary football."

While Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo have a large say in New England's defense, it's Bill who of course is the mastermind. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. While the offense continues to operate about as fast as refrigerated honey, the Pats' defense is playing at an elite level.

Of 17 opponents' possessions, only two have ended in touchdowns and only one was a sustained drive. The Pats surrendered a 42-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle on a 4th-and-4 in the Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh tight end Pat Freiermuth got free for an 8-yard pass to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive.

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Through two games New England hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown or an opponent to total 100 yards. The Steelers' Mitch Trubisky managed only 168 yards passing and Miami's Tua Tagovailoa was held to 270 which - considering his 469-yard, six-touchdown performance Sunday in Baltimore - seems pretty acceptable.

Of the teams that have played two games, only the San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns have allowed fewer yards rushing than New England.

Digging into their glorious past, the Patriots are playing defense by committee. A sack by Christian Barmore here. Linebacker Mack Wilson with a diving deflection that turns into a Jalen Mills interception there. And a sprinkle of Ja'Whaun Bentley and Kyle Dugger all over the field.

New England is stuffing the run, pressuring the quarterback (six sacks) and getting off the field.

While the offense is the squeaky wheel getting the grease, the Patriots' defense is keeping this team afloat.

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