Among the many theories on the New England Patriots' preseason switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense is the theory that this defense will feature multiple looks in their front seven. After all, they have the personnel to run 3-4 and 4-3 defenses at any time.
"We're a very multiple defense, one week we may come out with pressure, the next week we might come out sitting back in coverage, so you never know. I think that’s a good quality of this defense."
The Patriots front seven was the weak link last year. The secondary did their part by nabbing 25 interceptions, and that was despite little to no pressure from the front seven.
According to Cold, Hard Football Facts, the Patriots "Defensive Hogs" ranked 22nd in the NFL in 2010, allowing a third down conversion rate of 47.14 percent. They generated 9.27 percent negative pass plays, 10th in the league in that category, but that was in spite of their 36 sacks, which ranked 15th in the league.
The Patriots have built a defense that is capable of playing not just multiple fronts, but multiple game plans.
This is a big deal for obvious reasons, but this is a very calculated move. The Patriots defense has historically been victimized in the second half of games both big and small. They were exposed in the second half of Super Bowl XXXVI, but escaped with a victory over the St. Louis Rams with a legendary drive by Tom Brady.
They were exposed by the Indianapolis Colts in a dreadful second half in which the Patriots coughed up a 21-6 lead for a 38-34 loss.
Their pension for choking the game away in the second half with a lackluster defensive performance really hurt them in 2009, in which the team went 2-6 on the road despite a lead or tie at halftime in six of those games.
The multiplicity of this defense will allow Bill Belichick to make the appropriate halftime adjustments. If they need to play more coverage, they have the cornerbacks that can hold up. If they need to pressure more, they have players in the front seven capable of getting after the passer.
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Patriots outlook on defense, and Jerod Mayo highlights yet another reason.