FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — With 76 points through two games, plenty has gone right for the New England Patriots.
Offense has certainly been a big part of their dominance, but their defense has been equally as impressive in wins over Pittsburgh and Miami.
New England (2-0) has the NFL’s stingiest defense thus far, allowing just 246 yards and 1.5 points per game.
Next up is a visit from a 0-2 New York Jets team that is reeling at the quarterback position. Starter Sam Darnold is out recovering from mononucleosis and backup Trevor Siemian was sidelined for the season with an ankle injury during their loss to Cleveland on Monday night.
It means New York, which opened as an 18-point underdog to New England, will now put the ball in the hands of third-stringer Luke Falk for Sunday’s matchup against the league’s top defense.
The Patriots are the only team in the NFL yet to give up a touchdown and are just the fourth team in the Super Bowl era to allow three points or fewer through their first two games (previous one was the 1981 Buffalo Bills).
The Jets have scored only one offensive touchdown this season.
“It’s always a challenge,” Jets coach Adam Gase said. “Put the rankings aside, anytime you go against a coach (Bill) Belichick-coached defense it’s extremely tough. There’s a lot of variety. When you get to the game there’s always gonna be something that’s new.”
Two big reasons are the play of the Patriots secondary, which has a league-high five interceptions and their linebackers, which have gotten a boost from the return of Jamie Collins while seeing resurgence by Dont’a Hightower.
“I give credit to the guys. They do a good job of preparing each week, so they all are ready in every situation, and in any position we put them in,” linebackers coach DeMarcus Covington said.
Collins and Hightower are tied for first and second, respectively, on the team in tackles and have been huge facets of a run defense that hasn’t given up a play of more than 9 yards.
Belichick said Collins has only gotten more versatile since his first stint with New England from 2013 to 2016 before being traded to the Browns.
“Jamie’s a very special player. He’s very smart, instinctive. He’s got a great nose for the ball in the passing game and in the running game,” Belichick said.
“He’s got the physical skills to play at the end of the line and off the line, to blitz, to play in coverage, play against the run and play against the pass. So we’re able to do different things with him and he’s been productive and effective in all of them.”
By shutting down Pittsburgh and Miami’s rushing attacks, the Patriots were able to make both teams one-dimensional.
That forced Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen to take chances.
In Miami’s case it ended in four interceptions. Collins hauled in two off them, returning one for a 69-yard touchdown . Cornerback Stephon Gilmore also posted the first pick-6 of his career, grabbing a fourth-quarter pass by Fitzpatrick and taking it back 54 yards for the score .
Gilmore’s play was made possible by linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who put pressure on Fitzpatrick and forced him into a quick throw.
“I always wanted a pick-6,” Gilmore said. “I had one my rookie year but they called it back. So I finally got on the board.”
Safety Devin McCourty, who also had an interception against Miami, said the challenge going forward is maintaining the consistency they’ve had over the first two games.
Each of the past two seasons the defense has started slowly and improved throughout the year.
But McCourty said there is a different feel to this group.
“I think everyone’s playing very selfless, just helping each other out and being where they’re supposed to be and then showing up,” McCourty said. “We have to continue to do those things and challenge each other no matter what, being ready to go each week.”
Notes: Quarterback Tom Brady was a limited participant in practice with a calf injury. Also on the injury report was fullback James Develin, who sat out with a neck injury. Right tackle Marcus Cannon (shoulder), newly acquired tackle Caleb Benenoch (calf) and tight end Matt LaCosse were also listed as limited participants.