What's Passed Is PrologueThere appear to be two schools of thought about the defense of the 2012 New England Patriots. It would be a mistake to enroll in either.
One school we may name OMG! OMG! OMG! A&M. Its faculty and students are in thrall to the theory that the Pats' defense, especially its pass defense, is the worst extant, and possibly the worst in known history. The defense will keep the Patriots from winning or reaching the Super Bowl (nobody on Earth is far gone enough to come up with a reason the Pats won't win the AFC East). The defense is proof Bill Belichick has been a complete failure as a player personnel director since about Hurricane Katrina, and is rapidly losing his grip as a coach, too. In short, doom, quite effectively disguised as Andrew Luck, is nigh.
The other school is They're All Right Jack State U., a/k/a the Fightin' Zolaks. This institute of medium-height learning is dedicated to the proposition that the fact New England's pass defense is prone like no other to allowing the type of long bomb plays thought to have become extinct when Norm Van Brocklin retired is a mere trifle, a data error in the otherwise serene physics of the Pats' universe. Look at all those game-saving turnovers, they cry. Who cares what yardage a team gives up between the 20 yard lines? If pressed, they go to their universal theory: We'll just outscore 'em.
Football commentary is the second-most inane of the four major sports (nothing can top the NBA in that regard) precisely because it always falls into the all bad/all good dichotomy we see here. I am sure Belichick spends a considerable amount of time and energy worrying about his team's pass defense and scheming with all his might to improve it. It is fair to regard the acquisition of Aqib Talib and his amazingly well-documented issues with authority as the action of a man addressing what he believes is a real problem.
Then again, it is also safe to assume that Belichick shows up for work each Sunday reasonably confident his team will win the game, and with good reason, too. On balance, the Patriots still create more problems than they possess.
That might not last. Unsolved problems have a way of eating at a team's strengths. The more an offense thinks it needs 31 points or more, the harder it can become to do so when in fact it had better do so. Turnovers are the best defensive play of them all. They are also the most fickle play of them all.
It would be no surprise if the Patriots continued to surrender 30-yard passes more or less at will, and kept right on adding to the long list of journeyman or worse quarterbacks they've turned into Dan Marino in 2011-2012, then finished with a 12-4 record and went on and won the Super Bowl anyway. Damn near happened last year, after all.
Damn near wasn't much fun, was it, Pats fans? A chronic weakness is never a cause for panic. Always one for worry, though.