Why New England Patriots Won't Sniff Super Bowl with Wretched Secondary

Caleb GarlingCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 30:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots after catching a pass during the game on October 30, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

A common refrain with Patriots fans is, "In Bill we trust."

Their head coach can do no wrong. And if you look at the guy's resume, it's not an unreasonable position. The Patriots have been "The Team of the Last Decade," even when they had glaring holes in particular facets of the game.

Despite how good the Pats have been since their amazing upset over "The Greatest Show on Turf," they have played every season with a little asterisk here or there.

Sometimes they have trouble stopping the run. Other times they have trouble getting it started. But whatever the weakness is, the Pats and fans across New England have been able to take Belichick's genius adjustments to the bank.

So, this year, even at 5-2 the Patriots have another glaring hole: the secondary. As of this week they've given up the most yards of any team in the league via the pass. Now, betting against Belichick is a bad idea, but there are a few pretty alarming points that say this chink in the armor may be Super Bowl fatal.

First, the AFC division leaders all have top pass offenses. Houston, San Diego and Pittsburgh are No. 4, 3 and 2, respectively, in the AFC in pass yards per game. The Patriots are, of course, No. 1. 

But when it comes to pass defenses, Houston (No. 6), San Diego (No. 4) and Pittsburgh (No. 1) all hover as the best in the conference by pass yards allowed per game. New England, however, drops down to the deep basement, last behind the lowly Dolphins.

The Patriots' 323 yards allowed per game is worse than Miami by a whooping 53 yards. Ouch.

Today Pittsburgh exemplified this problem by locking down Brady (198 passing yards) while Big Ben went wild (365 yards, to NINE different receivers) in a 25-17 win. That the score was that close actually belies how much Pittsburgh controlled the tempo and flow of play.

Now, those paying close attention will point out that the Saints won a Super Bowl with one of the league's worst pass defenses and could rely on a high-octane pass attack. But the difference there is that every team they faced in the postseason, including that porous Colts defense, was also terrible.

That's not the case for the Patriots this year. Their competition can lock it down. They can't.

Their only solace is that the Packers are basically playing the exact same way in the NFC.

Bill Belichick is always worth trusting, but even he has his limits.


Caleb writes for Wired.com and says other stuff at www.twitter.com/calebgarling.