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Bedard: Patriots’ defensive issues continue against Bears – and that doesn’t make any sense

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If you wanted to, you could explain it away by throwing out phrases like ...

"Well, what do you expect, no one plays defense in the NFL anymore."

"Who cares? We won all three games. That's all that matters."

And if that's tact you'd like to take, and/or you want to live in a world with only positive thoughts, then more power to you. And, also, namaste.

But you might as well stop reading. This isn't for you, and that's OK.

But those of us who want to live in reality — and probably Bill Belichick when he looks at the film on Monday — have a different take on what has transpired not only in Sunday's 38-31 win over the Bears, but the past three games.

Namely, the Patriots have played some embarrassing defense of late. And something's not right about it.

And you can start with this: they're getting worse, not better.

Only one other Belichick team has given up more than the 95 points allowed by these Patriots in three-straight games. That was the 2005 version, which allowed 97 in Weeks 4-6 against the Chargers (41), Falcons (28) and Broncos (28). The Patriots went 1-2 during that stretch. These guys went 3-0. That's the influence of the new NFL for you.

We know how that season went. The Patriots went 10-6, had to play in the wild-card round (a whole generation of New England fans have no idea what that is) and lost at Denver in a divisional game. No one is expecting that to happen because, again, defense is somewhat optional in today's NFL. But it doesn't mean it should be going on.

It shouldn't. How it has been happening has sent some distressing signals, and Sunday was a microcosm of that.

Look, we've seen some awful Patriots defenses in recent years, especially early in the season. The 2011 (342 points allowed) and '13 (338) versions are No. 2 and 3 behind the '02 team (346) for points allowed in the Belichick era. But even those defenseless teams have shown more than this group.

Last year's defense, which allowed an average of 32 points in the first four weeks of the season snapped out of it in Week 5. That group allowed an average of 11.9 points in the next eight games. In other words, last year's defense allowed the same number of points from Weeks 5-13 (bye was included) than this year's team did in the past three games.

And look who it was against.

The Colts, who didn't have their best receiver, a top tight end and left tackle, put up 298 yards and 21 points in the second half at Gillette Stadium.

No shame in the Chiefs putting up 40 at the Razor ... but touchdowns of 67 and 75 yards with blown coverages each time, and 31 points in the second half (21 points in 10 minutes)?

Sunday was the low point. It wasn't so much that the Patriots allowed 31 points, 453 total yards and 50 percent third-down conversions. We'll even allow for Mitch Tannehill ... I mean Trubisky ... throwing for 333 yards because some of that was garbage-time totals at the end of each half. That can happen in Goodell's NFL.

It was what happened on some of the plays.

A long-time NFL coach once told me that it's embarrassing for a defense to have the opponent run the ball in. It's a test of manhood-type thing. You're letting the opponent impose their will on you and you're getting shoved around.

Wonder what he would say about a running back scoring from the 2-yard line untouched until he's in the end zone, which happened on Jordan Howard's score where Trey Flowers was shoved out of his gap and no one else put up a fight.

If that's considered an "embarrassment," what do you think it says that the Patriots allowed Trubisky, from the 8-yard line, to run back to the 30-yard line on one side of the field, and then score untouched on the other?

Or what about Trubisky running for 39 yards down to the 1-yard line, nearly stopping at one point, while making three of the team's best tacklers — Dont'a Hightower, Elandon Roberts and Patrick Chung — look bad in the process?

Excuse me, but since when did 2006 Michael Vick inherit the body of the No. 10 guy for the Bears?

Oh, but there was more through the air.

The Patriots allowed the Bears to convert a fourth-and-4 early in the second quarter when, while playing man coverage, two players jumped the same receiver and left Trey Burton wide open. Even Tannehill Jr. could make that throw.

Then, finally, there was the last Bears score when Jonathan Jones fell down and allowed Burton and Trubisky an easy score. Most times you can chalk this up to being unlucky, but not this time because a) Jones was in such a poor stance that he was inviting himself to get run over, and b) because of all the other extraordinarily bad plays we previously saw from the defense.

The other thing about Sunday's performance that likely irked Patriots Nation? Situational defense. How many times over the years have we heaped praise on the defense — even the bad ones — because of their ability to handle short fields and hold the opponent to field goals because, ultimately, points are what matters?

The Patriots gave the ball to the Bears three times — at the New England 24-, 36- and Chicago 37-yard line. All three times, Trubisky and his Greatest Show on TurfGrass (apparently) drove the field and scored easy, basically uncontested, touchdowns.

Since when does any Patriots defense do that?

Look, anybody can have a bad day at the office (and imagine where they would have been without the interceptions by J.C. Jackson and Jones on one pass that shouldn't have been thrown, and another that was underthrown — nevermind two special teams scores). They might be rare for the Patriots compared to the rest of the league, but they do happen. And that's easy to write off.

But this? No, this is something different.

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As you see above, this isn't a one-game deal, or even a tough stretch for the Patriots. This has been going on since the end of last season.

I was actually going to take out the Texans and Dolphins games because those respectable performances have actually become the exception and not the rule for this team.

But I don't have to. The sample size is so big at this point that even a "great" game against the Real Deal Tannehill doesn't prevent the numbers from being historically bad.

If you project out the nine-game average of 26.7 to 16 games, the Patriots would allow 427 points — third-most in franchise history to only the 1972 squad (446 in 14 games) and Rod Rust's 1990 1-15 team (446).

Even if you just dealt with this season, the Patriots are on pace to allow 409 points — the most ever for a Belichick defense by 63 points (348, '02) and ... third-most in franchise history. Even if the Patriots shutout the Bills on Monday night (entirely possible), they'd still be on pace to allow 358 points.

Look, I'm not saying this defense is really that bad or even close to it. And I'm not saying they aren't going to get any better.

I'm just saying ... well ... I don't understand why they aren't better than this by now. This wasn't Week 3 or 4. This was Week 7 and next week — when they will roll over the historically bad Bills on Monday night — marks the midpoint of the calendar.

Why are they allowing runners to go into the end zone untouched? Why are there still blown coverages all over the place? Why aren't they holding offenses to field goals after turnovers? Why didn't they build off the Week 4 shutdown of the Dolphins, when all seemed right in Patriots-land?

That's what normally happens around here. That's what always happens around here.

But it's not happening with this group ...

... which doesn't have any starters on injured reserve (you can count Ja'Whaun Bentley if you want, but that's a stretch) and is relatively healthy;

... which basically has the same exact personnel as last season, especially in the secondary (minus a guy that wasn't good enough to play in the Super Bowl) where most of the issues have been.

It doesn't make any sense. This defense should be better and it's not even close to being improved.

I don't know what to make of it.

There doesn't seem to be any division — it feels like a close-knit group, especially in the secondary, yet they play like 11 cabs for 11 guys. Have too many guys lost a step at the same time? Maybe, but I don't see that. Are they just not good enough talent-wise? You could make a stronger case for that, but I still don't think that's it.

The potential is there — they showed it against the Dolphins with virtually flawless execution — that they can play as one cohesive unit and well for 60 minutes. And I don't think Miami is a low bar because execution is the name of the game and they're failing at it right now against everyone.

Some of the players made mention that prior to the Dolphins game, the defensive players spent a lot more time meeting together and holding each other accountable.

If that's not happening every week — and if it's not, maybe that's the problem — maybe it should be. Because whatever they're doing right now, it isn't working. And this has gone on for far two long for a Patriots defense.