FOXBOROUGH — While most people were arguing whether Rob Gronkowski was back or playing out the final moments of his sterling career (probably the latter), and whether or not Sony Michel is the key to the Patriots' offense because they've never run play-action around here until he arrived (eyeroll), most people missed the most significant thing to come out of the middling win over the Jets a week ago:
The Patriots' defense took a significant step forward in the amount of pressure they applied to Josh McCown and how much blitzing they did against the Jets' quarterback (Of course, BSJ members knew all about it).
Of course, most of it was dismissed because it was, a) the Jets, and, b) the Jets ... and even we were guilty of some of it, because the Patriots usually only bring that kind of pressure when they know they won't be burned by it (i.e. Luke McCown with no weapons at his disposal).
So it was difficult to really tell how significant all that pressure was, because of the team the Patriots decided to unleash it against.
But after Sunday's defensive tour de force that turned Kirk Cousins in a popgun game manager, we now know the significance: It represented a huge step forward for this defense. Now, it puts it into the realm of possibility the Patriots won't have to overcome their defense in the postseason — they might win because of it on occasion. Especially if the offense continues to struggle.
For the second straight game, the New England defense unleashed a third-down blitz package you were more likely to see from some of the most aggressive defenses in recent years — think Blitzburgh and Rex Ryan.
Make no mistake, the Patriots are now dictating the game to the opponent (at least on third down) instead of reading and reacting.
In short, this is the defense you've been looking for.