Gordon: Losing Matt Patricia a Blessing for Patriots

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The New England Patriots are in a transition period when it comes to their defense as the team suffered the beneficial loss of Matt Patricia as he became the head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Yes you read that right. Losing their longtime defensive coordinator was the best thing that could have happened to that defensive unit.

Ever since Patricia took over the defense in 2012, the unit began to adopt a 4-3 scheme as opposed to the long supported 3-4 defense that Bill Belichick likes to run.

Although the defense had some high points in 2014 and in 2016, they suffered when it came to covering the pass and total yards.

Average yards given up on defense per game via the pass.

  • 2012 – 272.8 – (29)
  • 2013 – 252.3 – (26)
  • 2014 – 236.4 – (16)
  • 2015 – 235.6 – (12)
  • 2016 – 239.8 – (14)
  • 2017 – 256.3 – (31)

Total yards given up on defense per game

  • 2012 – 375.2 – (26)
  • 2013 – 381.2 – (28)
  • 2014 – 341.3 – (11)
  • 2015 – 336.2 – (8)
  • 2016 – 328.3 – (8)
  • 2017 – 370.3 – (30)

( ) – League rank

No one will deny that some of Patricia’s defenses were better than average, the underlying issue with them was the mentality of a bend but not break defense.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if a defense gives up 400 yards a game as long as there are no points scored. While not giving up points is all well and good, the flaws in this system were exposed with the surrendering of 42 points to the Kansas City Chiefs and their quarterback Alex Smith who is not known for his abilities for lighting up the scoreboards or the stat sheets.

Patricia’s defense constantly looked out of sync with a barrage of communication issues that ranged from blown coverages—such as the throw from Nick Foles to running back Corey Clement—and players not covering who they were supposed and or missing assignment—Cassius Marsh on Tyreek Hill.

For now, Brian Flores, a man who started as a scouting assistant with the organization, will get his turn to coach the defense. Flores already has the respect of many players, including safety Duron Harmon.

“He coached me for my first three years, so I know how he’s going to drive the team. And I appreciate it,” Harmon said to MassLive.com. “I like his intensity. I love his attitude. And just know it’s going to make me be a better football player.”

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Linebackers coach Brian Flores has taken over the play calling duties on defense. Photo: Getty Images

Patriots linebacker and defensive leader Dont’a Hightower said the change in guard has brought on numerous differences including the coaching and communication between players.

“Maybe it’s just the way that he teaches it,’’ Hightower said. “The way that the guys kind of absorb it a little bit different. We meet a little different, talk about things a little different. It’s just small, quirky things that you can’t necessarily put a finger on, but it’s obvious whenever you can kind of have first-year guys come in or even guys who even maybe got signed that can pick things up.’’

The change in energy is very noticeable and as the players strap the pads on for the first few times in Training Camp. The Patriots and their fans will get the first glimpse of a defense with a change in physicality and mentality to not concede, but to attack.

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