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For each of the past two seasons
Posted by: liny195
Date: February 10, 2019 08:19PM
Authentic Elandon Roberts Jersey , the identity of the Patriots defense didn't become clear until late in the year.Both times the group had stumbles early, followed by steady improvement. Those leaps were aided at least in part by the increased contributions of newcomers or role players that previously had much smaller roles.That pattern is holding true in 2018 as the Patriots prepare for back-to-back road games at Miami and Pittsburgh that will go a long way in determining their playoff seeding.Earlier this season, New England's opponents took advantage of a defense that struggled to get pressure up front and that was susceptible to giving up big plays in the secondary.After allowing 300 or more passing yards four times in its first seven games, New England (9-3) has not allowed a 300-yard passer in five straight games. It also has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in nine straight games, going back to Week 3 against the Lions when Kerryon Johnson did it.Those are important markers for a Patriots defense that has had trouble recently at Miami. New England is 17-7 against the Dolphins since 2007, but has lost four of its past five at Hard Rock Stadium.Ryan Tannehill threw for 350 yards and two TDs in the Dolphins' 20-10 win in the 2015 regular-season finale in Miami.That came a season after Knowshon Moreno rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown in Miami's 33-20 win to open the 2014 season. Tannehill had two touchdown passes in that game to help the Dolphins outscore the Patriots 23-0 in the second half."It's a week-to-week challenge in the season," Patriots Bill Belichick said of his defense's evolving identity. "We haven't established anything against Miami, so we'll have to go down and do that on Sunday and we'll see what happens. Certainly, they'll be a big challenge for us."Since allowing a season-high 40 points in their win over Kansas City in Week 6, only two teams have scored more than 17 against the Patriots over the past six games 鈥?Chicago (38-31 win over the Bears) and Tennessee (34-10 loss to the Titans).One reason the Patriots defense has tightened has been the improvement of the secondary. That has included key contributions from rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson, who has seen an increased role since Eric Rowe was placed on injured reserve at the end of October.Jackson has two interceptions and contributed to another in last week's win over Minnesota, tipping Kirk Cousins' pass into the hands of teammate Duron Harmon in the closing minutes.Linebackers coach Brian Flores, who is calling plays for the defense this season, said Jackson and fellow rookies Keion Crossen and Duke Dawson have earned the trust of their teammates through their work ethic off the field.Belichick said Jackson's ball skills first caught their attention as an undrafted player in the spring."He's just been very dependable and gotten better every day. It's not always perfect Authentic Trent Brown Jersey Salute to Service , but he learns from his mistakes and corrects things," Belichick said. "It's taken a little time for him to gain some experience, but he's doing a good job with it."Safety Devin McCourty said Jackson's willingness to be on an island at times will serve him and the team well going forward."I think we're starting to feel it that he knows we believe in him," McCourty said."We know he's talented and can play and we've got his back. ... We had him in some tough situations where we were counting on him to make plays sometimes by himself with no help and he showed up. He had been doing that every time we gave him an opportunity to be out there." Chiefs wide receiver DeAnthony Thomas broke a leg during practice and could miss the rest of the season, the latest in a string of injuries to befall the unbeaten team.The Chiefs also listed Justin Houston as doubtful for Sunday night's game against the Patriots in New England with a hamstring injury. Free safety Eric Murray has been ruled out with an ankle injury and offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is out with a broken bone in his leg.Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said that Thomas was taking part in Thursday's practice when he got stepped on from behind, fracturing the same leg he broke in a game last December. Thomas had surgery to repair the break and had a metal rod inserted, though the latest break did not damage that repair."He had what we consider a freak accident," Burkholder said. "All indications are right now that he won't need surgery and he will heal up on his own, but he will need some time to heal up."Thomas surprised many by making the Chiefs' roster in training camp, given his relatively modest production his first four years in Kansas City. And while he has just three catches for 15 yards and a touchdown, Thomas has proven to be valuable on special teams."I'm sorry for the kid. He's a tough little nut, man," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "He'll come back and he'll be all right. You hate that to happen, as hard as he worked to get back."Reid characterized Houston as a "longshot" to play against the Patriots Adrian Clayborn Jersey Salute to Service , likely leaving Kansas City without its top pass rusher against Tom Brady and Co. Tanoh Kpassagnon is likely to start alongside Dee Ford, though both of those outside linebackers have also been hobbled by injuries.The Chiefs tried to shore up their pass rush this week by signing Frank Zombo, who was cut in camp after spending the past five seasons with them, and former Browns linebacker Nate Orchard.Zombo's familiarity with the defense means he could play Sunday. Orchard also could be active."I think he could come out and help you if needed. He can do that," Reid said. "He is good enough to be worked in, plus he was familiar with us being in Cleveland for a year, with this system."In the defensive backfield, the Chiefs are almost certain to be without Eric Berry, who continues to be listed as doubtful and has not practiced since early in training camp with a heel injury.Fellow safety Daniel Sorensen is also on injured reserve with a broken leg, which means the latest injury to Murray leaves the Chiefs desperately short on depth. Jordan Lucas will likely start opposite of Ron Parker, though he's played primarily special teams since arriving in a trade with Miami.Lucas did pick off Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles in last week's win over Jacksonville."He's played quite a little bit before he got here and then he played for us last week," Reid said. "He knows what's going on and actually had some nice plays back there."

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