The Patriots' win over the Bills on Sunday was not exactly a reassuring victory. While Tom Brady and the offense put up 38 points on Buffalo, just about every last touchdown was needed as the Bill's offense managed to respond with 30 of their own. The prevailing sentiment is that if this is a team that needs to score 30+ against the Jets of the world, they are going to be in some serious trouble.
So why is it that the defense seems so...content?
Appearing on WEEI's Dale & Holly show today, Brandon Meriweather and Vince Wilfork did not exactly paint a picture of a defense in crisis, but one that was relatively happy with their performance on Sunday.
Meriweather said that while the Patriots allowed 30 points to the Bills in Sunday's win, the defense came through when needed - as with his late fourth-quarter interception that sealed the victory. "When we had to get a play and we had to make a play, I feel like yes, we had some guys step up and make a play. ... We stepped up and had a lot of plays that needed to be made in crucial situations."
"It's a positive step," [Wilfork] said. "I'm not saying everything's perfect, but it's a positive step. We have to keep building on it. As long as we keep doing that, and being aware of the situations, how a team wants to play us and wants to attack us when certain situations occur, we'll be in good shape. We'll be in good shape. But I'm very proud of the team, how we rallied and we kept our poise. We stayed even keel."
Both Meriweather and Wilfork acknowledge there are issues, but let's be frank, it's a bit more than that. The Bills had been one of the worst offensive teams coming into Sunday's game, and had Ryan Fitzpatrick of the career 68.6 career passer rating starting. While, yes, the defense did "step up" when it came down to the wire, getting good pressure and forcing Fitzpatrick into some bad throws, there's no way they should be in a situation where they need a big play against a Bills team that managed 17 points total in its previous two games.
As for Wilfork's suggestion that they're taking steps forward, it's not really apparent that this is the case. Against the Bengals, everyone looked solid. Against the Jets, the line was still getting decent pressure but the secondary was being taken advantage of. Against the Bills, there was limited pressure and the secondary was extremely hit-or-miss (with the exception of one Patrick Chung, who was simply a hit).
It got to the point where things were downright Stoogesque. There were twice instances of Patriots tackling eachother instead of the Bills-once when three defenders collided around a receiver, allowing the Bills to convert their first third-and-long situation in forty attempts, and again when Devin McCourty actually took Stephen Gostkowski out while the kicker was in the act of tackling C.J. Spiller and preventing the Bills' return man from bringing a kickoff all the way back for a touchdown. Those are huge, game-changing mistakes that you might not expect out of a high school football team.
If anything, things are getting worse.
They are a young unit, so it's not exactly surprising that they're prone to inconsistency. But excuses aren't going to make a difference when looking at the standings. And right now, it would be nice to see some urgency coming from that half of the locker room.