NFL Column: Put the panic button away in New England

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) passes against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Does anyone remember a month ago? When everyone thought the New England Patriots were good? Talk of a perfect season and the best football team this league has seen since the ’07 Patriots.  As it turns out, New England is 2-2 through the first four weeks of football, and it seems that the sky is falling all over Patriots nation. In the words of Aaron Rodgers: relax.

I’ll give you this. This Patriots defense is not great. Stephon Gilmore – who inked a five-year, $65 million dollar contract in the offseason – has looked bad. He’s blamed his struggles so far on communication issues and insisted it has nothing to do with skill.

"It's frustrating when it's communication, it's not really ability,” Gilmore told ESPN's Mike Reiss. “I have to get better at the communication part. It's my fault on the communication.”

It’s not just communication that’s contributed to New England’s 31st-ranked defense. The Patriots defense has certainly lost some players. Veteran linebacker and fan-favorite Rob Ninkovich retired unexpectedly before the season. Third-round pick Derek Rivers, a defensive end out of Youngstown State, tore his ACL weeks later with second-year Vincent Valentine joining the injured reserve shortly after as well.

The secondary was supposed to be the anchor on this defense. But with Gilmore struggling to learn the system and Malcolm Butler underperforming, this team certainly has some work to do.

Let’s be honest though. This is a Matt Patricia defense. This is a Bill Belichick team. Does anyone actually doubt that the Patriots will right the ship?

Say they don’t. Say their defense stays this bad the whole season. Is their season over? Let’s take a look at history: New England had the 31st-ranked defense in the 2011-2012 season and they went to Super Bowl XLVI that year.

New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, center, uses a fan's banner to celebrate his touchdown catch against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Sometimes, the problem with the Patriots is that they’re usually so good at every aspect of the game that a weakness in one spot is blown out of proportion. Is the defense bad? Definitely. Will it get better? It’s the Patriots, of course it will get better.

Look at the bright side, Tom Brady is 40 years old and is arguably having his best start to a season so far in his career. The offense is firing on all cylinders without Julian Edelman.

Yes, the Buffalo Bills sitting atop the AFC East after four weeks is strange. The Jets, who were supposed to be the worst team in the NFL this year, being tied with the Patriots at 2-2 is even stranger.  But Patriots fans, I’m going to ask you to take your hand off the panic button.

The defense will get better. Tom Brady is your quarterback. Life is good in New England.


Connor Donahue is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at connor.f.donahue@uconn.edu. He tweets @conn_donahue.