Time To Reconfigure The Defense

Leigh Bodden

With three games in the books, it's a fact that the Patriots defense has major issues. Even with a host of new talent up front, the team trails the entire league. Perhaps it is time to reconfigure the newfangled defense into something that can actually slow down opponents.

Apparently, scoring 30 points won't be enough to win every game.

   At some point, the Patriots realize, their defense will be required to make stops in crucial situations. So far in 2011, coach Bill Belichick is still waiting for that part of the Patriots' plan to fall into place.

   With a 21-0 lead in the second quarter Sunday at Buffalo, the Patriots fell apart in the second half in an eventual 34-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills -- their first loss to their division rivals since 2003.

   The Patriots never got the key stop when they needed it most, and kicker Rian Lindell snapped Buffalo's 15-game losing streak against the Patriots with a 28-yard field goal as time expired, capping a furious rally that lifted the Bills to 3-0 and raised doubts about the effectiveness of New England's defense.

   When Tom Brady plays near-flawless football, all is well in New England. But on a day like Sunday in which he threw four interceptions -- he only threw four all of last season -- areas of weakness suddenly become the focal point.

   Through three games, the Patriots have allowed more yards (1,406) than any team in the NFL and have allowed the sixth most points per game with 26.3. They're not too bad against the run (11th overall in run defense), but their pass defense has been atrocious; they're allowing a whopping 377 yards per game through the air -- one of only three teams allowing more than 300 yards per game in that category.

   Sunday's performance didn't help. Bills' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 27 of 40 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns to complete the comeback.
   "We've got to start carrying our own share of the load," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "Your team scores 31, you
got to win the game. We knew they were a good second-half team. It was up to us to stop them. We scored enough points."

   Added cornerback Leigh Bodden: "They just made plays when they had to. We didn't. That's how it got away. We just got to finish plays, eliminate the deep balls, which they caught a few on us."

   Things figure to get tougher this weekend when the Patriots travel to Oakland to face the surprising Raiders, who are 2-1 and lead the league in rushing while averaging the sixth most points per game (30.7) in the NFL.

   "This is something we'll learn from as a football team," guard Brian Waters said. "We'll try to fix it before next week."

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