Patriots vs. Ravens: New England's Defense Reverts Back to 2011 Form

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer ISeptember 24, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23:  Torrey Smith #82 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled by Steve Gregory #28 and Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

To a man, this is not the same New England Patriots defense that got torched for the second-most passing yards in NFL history in 2011.

But judging by the product on the field, this version is a reasonable facsimile.

Say what you will about the officiating in Sunday night's game—and believe me, there will be plenty said about it in this space and across the web in the coming days—but that much you cannot deny.

The Patriots defense looked much improved through the first two games of the season, but up against their first true test, they seemed to regress a bit.

Come January, the Patriots won't be playing the Tennessee Titans or Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs. They'll be playing heavyweights like the Baltimore Ravens.

In the first game that could serve as a scale for improvement, the Patriots barely tipped the scales.

There are still problems in the secondary. The Patriots added bodies in safeties Tavon Wilson and Steve Gregory (who had the Patriots' lone interception) along with the return of cornerback Ras-I Dowling from injury, but no one knew if they got any better because of it.

When the opponents were the Titans and the Cardinals, it appeared they had. Now, with the Ravens game to draw on, the questions return.

There were missed opportunities—from dropped interceptions (a pair of them) by Devin McCourty, to Kyle Arrington tripping over his own two feet when he had a chance at a pick of his own, to Arrington simply losing sight of the ball on the first of Torrey Smith's two touchdowns, all the way to the final pass interference penalty on McCourty that set up the Ravens for the game-winning field goal.

The offense left its share of plays on the field as well, and scoring a total of three points on the final three drives of the game certainly didn't help New England's attempt to hold onto the lead, but 30 points is usually enough for the Patriots to get the job done. 

They had opportunities to close the game on both offense and defense, but they failed to do so. That would be true whether the penalties called against the Patriots were valid or not.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.