It is very obvious that the writing is on the wall. After an escape at home against Kansas City, and an inspired performance in New York, many believed the New England Patriots' defense was indeed back and maybe better than ever.
But Ronnie Brown had something to say about that. He, along with backfield mate and former NFL rushing champion Ricky Williams, ran roughshod up and down the field against the New England defense, running for over 200 yards of total offense.
Brown himself accounted for five touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 passing), as the Miami Dolphins ended the Patriots' 21-game regular-season winning streak that, ironically, began after a 21-0 loss to the Pats in December 2006.
So now we ask the question: Is the Patriots' defense getting too old? In age wise, yes, indeed they are. Most of the linebacking corps is over the age of 30, including hard-hitting veteran safety Rodney Harrison, 37. Without Tom Brady, many expect this defense to be on the field a lot more, to either stop teams or protect smaller leads.
This was clearly evident against Miami, where they were constantly fooled by the Arkansas, Wildcat (or whatever it's called) formation. If you remember down the stretch during the regular season, and even in the playoffs, it was hard for this defense to generate a consistent pass rush, which many believe denied them victory in Super Bowl XLII.
On the other side of the coin, however, you can never have too much experience, and that is what separates this defense from many others. With that being said, the NFL is becoming a league where defenses have gotten smaller, faster and smarter.
While the Patriots' defense is smart, they are not the fast and versatile defense of 2003 (Belichick's best defense in my opinion), which ranked near the top of every statistical category, sparking a 22-game winning streak.
Can the defense be fixed? It absolutely can, but it will have to be done quickly. Remember, they still play San Diego, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis, and these offenses have the capability to generate big plays against an overmatched defense, so the Patriots indeed have their work cut out for them in the coming weeks, if they are to make a run at January.