FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots are taking on a familiar look on defense, a look they hoped they wouldn’t see again.
In their third game this season, the team that allowed the second-most yards in the NFL last year gave up 503 in a 31-30 loss at the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday night. The Patriots lost on a last-play field goal after blowing a 13-0 lead.
In the third game last season, they led 21-0 but lost 34-31 on another field goal, also on the last play.
The opponent then was the Bills in Buffalo. On Sunday, the Patriots will play the Bills again in front of Buffalo’s fans.
There’s one big difference. Then the Patriots went into the game at 2-0. Now they’re trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak in 10 years.
“I hate to lose,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said Thursday. “Anybody hates to lose. I don’t care if it’s one in a row or two in a row or 10 in a row. You don’t want to lose.”
The Patriots were impressive in the opener and had shown signs that the defense, fortified by three high draft picks, had improved over the one that gave up 411.1 yards per game last season. It allowed only 284 in a 34-13 win at the Tennessee Titans and 245 in a home-opening 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
So what happened?
First, Baltimore has a superior offense to Tennessee and Arizona with one of the NFL’s best runners, Ray Rice, and a dangerous passing attack led by Joe Flacco.
And the Patriots couldn’t get to Flacco. He was rarely hurried and the only sack against him was nullified by a defensive holding penalty on Baltimore’s next-to-last drive that ended with a touchdown and a 30-28 Patriots lead.
“We didn’t want them to run the ball as much as they did so you get in a run-pass conflict and the good teams know what to do,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. “So they run, then they play action, then you’re not on top of your best pass rush moves when you’re thinking it’s a run and it turns into a pass.
“So I think the best thing that we can do is just go out there and start fast like we did last week, get them into a one-dimensional-type style of game,” he said.
The Patriots also would like to take the Bills’ raucous fans out of the game early.
“It gets rowdy out there so getting off to a huge start is going to be huge for us,” said middle linebacker Jerod Mayo.