Wow, where was this New England Patriots defense all season?
For all the NFL and team records the Patriots tied and set on offense Saturday night in their 45-10 divisional round win against the Denver Broncos, the most impressive part of New England's big win was the surprising success of the defense.
Before you say, "well, they played the Broncos and their offense with quarterback Tim Tebow is inept," make sure you understand exactly what happened.
Did the Patriots defense make a huge statement vs. Tebow?
It doesn't matter that Tebow isn't the best pocket passer in football, he has one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, yet the Patriots were repeatedly breaking through and putting pressure on the young quarterback.
The Patriots had five sacks last night, which is quite impressive against a player like Tebow who evades so many sacks with his running ability.
This is the same quarterback who threw for 316 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, who just so happen to be the best passing defense in the league.
The Patriots' pass defense was abysmal this season, but to their credit they had 34 takeaway, including 23 interceptions which led the AFC.
Against the Broncos, the Patriots recovered a fumble and made an interception, giving them a 2-0 edge in the turnover battle. During the regular season, the Patriots +17 turnover margin led the AFC.
I understand that Tebow's throwing mechanics aren't great, and that he will make mistakes that the better quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers won't. With that said, the Patriots' ability to repeatedly get past his offensive line, one of the best in football, was quite encouraging.
Not only was the Patriots passing defense solid on Saturday night, their run defense was fantastic as well.
The Broncos were the No. 1 ranked rushing team coming into the playoffs, averaging 164.5 yards per game on the ground. Against the Patriots, the Broncos managed 144 yards, and were unable to unleash a big run to give them some confidence early in the game.
Patriots Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, and linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes caused major problems all game for the Broncos rushing attack, and most importantly they tackled very well.
The most exciting part of the defense for Bill Belichick's team is that it's getting healthy and playing well at the right time.
Will the Patriots win the Super Bowl?
Safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes are healthy right now and played exceptional against Denver. Chung is a tremendous safety who gives the Patriots another guy with coverage skills in the secondary, and his tackling ability is superb. He missed several games this season due to injury.
With the Patriots getting healthy on defense, the unit seems like it's coming together at the perfect time.
If the Patriots defense plays near the level they did against the Broncos for the rest of the playoffs, no team will beat New England, especially with the offensive machine they have led by quarterback Tom Brady.
With a nine-game winning streak, and one more win needed for a Super Bowl appearance, the Patriots look determined to make yet another run at a championship, thanks to their defense.