Patriots Defense Building Confidence, Attitude Heading into AFC Championship

Randolph CharlotinAnalyst IIJanuary 21, 2012

Shawn Ellis and the Patriots defense has reason to feel good after holding Tim Tebow and the Broncos offense to 252 yards.
Shawn Ellis and the Patriots defense has reason to feel good after holding Tim Tebow and the Broncos offense to 252 yards.Elsa/Getty Images

After a playoff win over San Diego, several Patriots mocked then-Chargers LB Shawn Merriman’s “Lights Out” sack celebration right on the Chargers logo at midfield.

In a thorough dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship played in Pittsburgh, WR Deion Branch was caught on camera asking the fans, “Where’s your towels? Where’s your towels?”

In the third Super Bowl win over Philadelphia, WR David Givens caught a touchdown pass and celebrated by flapping his arms like wings, then shook his head no, sending the message this won’t be the Eagles’ night.

Disrespectful? Depends upon who you ask. Victims don’t like attitude to salt the wound.

New England didn’t make friends during their dynasty days. They just put the boots to almost any team that stood in their path. Sometimes they reminded their foes after demolition.

It got worse in 2007 after everyone and their mother claimed the Patriots’ dynasty was owed to what the Spygate controversy revealed. New England delivered a message to the league weekly, letting the final score speak on their behalf.

New England has won plenty of regular season games since their last Super Bowl trip (48 to be exact). Playoff success has been a different story, as they lost three in a row before the Denver win. Hard to talk when you’ve accomplished nothing.

The current team plays in the shadow of the Patriots dynasty. They understand the standard set in New England is they must win a Super Bowl before running their mouth.

LB Jerod Mayo, a leader by example, would have his teammates' support if Mayo expressed confidence emphatically
LB Jerod Mayo, a leader by example, would have his teammates' support if Mayo expressed confidence emphaticallyJim Rogash/Getty Images

Maybe that’s what’s holding the team back.

Attitude is born of confidence—confidence in one’s ability to perform, and from a unit doing great things.

The offense can brag and boast all they want after breaking a few records and finishing second in the NFL in total offense. The defense is at the opposite end of the spectrum, finishing second to last in total defense.

Someone on defense needs to speak up, whether he’s speaking his mind or pumping his teammates up. Even false bravado can get one to believe and lift his teammates’ confidence. It can bring the team together, and they’ll work harder to back up their teammate.

Former linebacker Tedy Bruschi was a polite, well-respected member of the Patriots for 13 years. But even he wasn’t above talkin’ smack. Bruschi played the disrespect card as if home games took place at Foxwoods instead of in Foxborough.

And after the Patriots beat Indianapolis for the second year in a row in the playoffs, Bruschi rhetorically asked if the league will change any more rules to help the Colts after Indianapolis appealed to the NFL to emphasize receiver contact rules after the first playoff loss to the Patriots.

Someone has to say they are a good unit despite what the statistics say. They contributed to the 13-3 regular season record as much as the offense and special teams did. The defense needs to believe they held up their end of the bargain.

Certainly there are elements for the defense to be proud of. They gave up a lot of yards, but forced a lot of field goals when teams reached the red zone. They’re tied for second in the NFL in interceptions.

More recently they can take pride in their second half performances. They allowed just 14 points combined in the second half against Denver, Miami and Buffalo. And in the playoff win over Denver, the defense pitched a shutout, as all of the Broncos points were set up by New England turnovers.

It was a rare complete game played by New England’s defense. They know they can get the job done for 60 minutes. They are finding more reasons to be confident entering the AFC Championship. If the improved play continues, the attitude will come.

Before taking on the Tim Tebow-led Broncos in the Divisional Round, New England DT Kyle Love was asked by for his opinion on Tebowmania.

“I can’t speak for everybody,” Love began. “I can just speak for myself. I can say that it does [get old] for me. It gets to the point where you get tired of hearing it.”

But on second thought, Love said, “I love hearing it actually. It makes me want to play hard.”

It’s a start.

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