The Sports Xchange
Seven games into the season New England's pass defense is not getting from fans what the struggling unit has been giving opposing quarterbacks all season -- a free pass.
Following Sunday's 25-17 loss in Pittsburgh in which Ben Roethlisberger spread the Patriots out and threw the ball 50 times and had a career-high 36 completions, the critical focus on the suspect New England secondary is glaring.
New England ranks dead last in the NFL in pass defense. With his 365 yards on Sunday, Roethlisberger became the sixth opposing quarterback in seven games to eclipse the 300-yard mark against the Patriots, with only the Jets Mark Sanchez (166) failing to get in on the aerial fun.
The Patriots allow 75 yards more per game than the NFL's 31st-ranked pass defense of the Colts.
Roethlisberger also took full advantage of New England's terrible third-down defense, converting 10 of his 16 chances in Sunday's victory. The Patriots rank 30th in the league in third-down defense.
|Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers is sacked and stripped by Andre Carter #93 of the New England Patriots during the game on October 30, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)|
Seven games into the season, and a week removed from the bye that should have been a chance to clean things up on defense, New England is left with ugly film to review and even more to prove as it prepares for Sunday's meeting in Foxborough with Eli Manning and the NFL's No. 4 overall passing offense.
"You watch that tape and it's nothing we want to represent us as a defense," safety James Ihedigbo said of the loss in Pittsburgh. "As a team, we watched that, and everyone had that look on their face, like, 'That isn't us.' What we put on tape isn't us. We'll correct that, and come out next week ready to show how the New England Patriots play defense."
Ihedigbo, one of many inexperienced rotational pieces in the back end of the defense, expects the unit to come out looking like it has something to prove. Probably because it does.
"I've never been around a group that wants to win more than the guys in this locker room," said Ihedigbo. "And winning is everything. We work too hard during the week and we watch too much tape, we study too much as a group to come up on the short end during a week that we put so much effort and preparation into. We're definitely going to have chip on shoulder this week. I know our defense, we're fired up. We're ready to go."
--QB Tom Brady was held to a season-low 198 yards passing in the loss at Pittsburgh, but still threw a pair of touchdowns and put up a 101.8 passer rating on the day. For the season Brady now has 18 touchdowns to either interceptions for 2,361 yards with a 104.4 passer rating.
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a season-low 9 yards on five carries against the Steelers. Green-Ellis still leads New England with exactly 400 yards on 96 attempts (4.2 avg.) on the season with five rushing touchdowns.
--RB Kevin Faulk came off PUP to make his season debut against Pittsburgh and was his usual productive self in the first game of his 13th season. Faulk ran six times for 32 yards and caught five passes for 20 yards.
--WR Wes Welker was held to just 39 yards on six catches in the loss at Pittsburgh, the second straight game he's been held to less than 50 yards receiving. Welker leads New England with 57 catches for 824 yards and six touchdowns, but has seen his production slow greatly in recent weeks after opening the year with four games over 120 yards in the first five weeks.
--WR Deion Branch had just four catches for 36 yards against the Steelers, although he did score a 2-yard touchdown. Branch ranks third on the Patriots with 30 catches for 405 yards through seven games.
--TE Rob Gronkowski had a career-high seven receptions for 94 yards at Heinz Field. The second-year tight end ranks second on New England with 36 catches for 495 yards with five touchdowns.
--DE Andre Carter had a pair of sacks against Ben Roethlisberger and is now tied for the Patriots lead with 4.5 sacks on the season.
--DE Mark Anderson once again recorded a late-game sack in Pittsburgh, giving him 4.5 sacks on the season.
--S Patrick Chung led the Patriots with a game-high 13 tackles against the Steelers.
--DT Vince Wilfork had his first full sack of the season in Pittsburgh.
--LB Gary Guyton recorded his first interception of the season against Ben Roethlisberger and returned it 17 yards to set up New England's first touchdown of the day in Pittsburgh.
--DT Kyle Love recorded his first sack of the season.
--LB Brandon Spikes recorded a season-high in tackles for the second straight week, recording 12 tackles in the loss.
--WR Julian Edelman was arraigned in Boston Municipal Court court Nov. 1 on charges of indecent assault and battery on a woman, stemming from a Halloween night incident at a city night club.
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