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Thursday, October 13, 2011
Is New England D really as awful as its rankings?

By Tim MacMahon

IRVING, Texas – Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the NFL’s total defense to find the New England Patriots.

Same with the passing defense rankings.

That’s absolutely stunning for a Bill Belichick team. But, sure enough, the Patriots have allowed the most total yards (433.0 per game) and passing yards (326.6 per game) in the NFL after five weeks.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, however, considers those numbers to be misleading. He insists that they aren’t indicative of the quality of the New England defense, which ranks 14th in points allowed (23.8 per game).

“I still think they’re awfully good,” Garrett said. “I think if you look at those numbers, they can be a little bit deceiving because they’ve played from ahead so much and teams are throwing the ball. That’s why we don’t get too caught up in statistics.

“There are certain statistics that we feel are very important, but some of the yardage statistics are not quite as important to us. I feel like this is a good indication of why.”

Tight end Jason Witten pointed out that the Patriots are coming off their best defensive performance of the season. New England held the Jets to 255 total yards in last week’s win.

“It’s a little bit unrealistic, because they’re starting to play better,” Witten said of the Patriots’ place in the defensive rankings. “Last week against the Jets, the Jets were 3-of-11 on third down. They’re doing a lot better, a lot more efficient. Some of those guys are young players. I think it probably took them a couple of games to get used to it.”

Added quarterback Tony Romo: "I think they struggled a couple of games early in the year, but they’ve played really well as of late. I think they’ve found a little bit of their niche. They do a lot of different stuff. They’re simple yet exotic, if that makes sense.

"It will be a great challenge for us. They’re better than what they are on paper right now. It will be a really tough challenge."