The New England Patriots are off to a great start this year. They are one of, if not the best team in the NFL. However, there is one weakness that has stood out in recent weeks, their defense. More specifically, their defense has been susceptible against the run.
In the last two weeks, the Patriots have been gashed by the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans in the run game. In fact, they have allowed 401 combined rushing yards the past two weeks alone. Against Denver, they gave up a whopping 280 yards on the ground, most of them coming from lead back Knowshon Moreno, and they gave up 121 yards against the Texans.
While much of the struggles in stopping the run this year can be attributed to the losses of Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, the fact is that the Pats never had a particularly good defense against the run even with both of them healthy. Brandon Spikes and a few other young players like Joe Vellano have flashed some potential defending the run, but it has been very inconsistent this year.
In a league where defensive teams like the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks are shutting teams down each and every week, the Patriots will have to play solid defense to have a chance at a Super Bowl title. Unfortunately, they have not played well defensively of late. Run defense could wind up being their Achilles heel in the postseason, especially if teams choose to incorporate a mix of the running game and play action passes to keep them off balance.
If the Patriots do not greatly improve defensively against the run, they will have a hard time beating the elite teams in the AFC and could suffer an unanticipated early playoff exit because of it.