New England's underrated defense

The New England Patriots had little trouble disposing of the Denver Broncos. Al Bello/Getty Images

Prior to Super Bowl XVI, San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh was a bit frustrated by the perception that his team wasn't quite as disciplined as Forrest Gregg's Cincinnati Bengals, their opponent in that contest. Gregg was a Vince Lombardi protégé and used many of the same boisterous methods Lombardi used to cajole his team, but to Walsh one didn't have to be loud in order to get results.

"Is discipline like slapping a child in the rear end or performing like a great Russian ballet dancer?" Walsh was quoted as saying in Dr. Z's "New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football." "Such a wide range in semantics. We play as controlled as any team in the NFL. That's how we interpret discipline."

Walsh's point was that preconceived perceptions can often blur the reality of a situation and cause one to misunderstand the true nature of the team in question.

The same type of misunderstanding seems to be taking place with the New England Patriots' defense.

There are many reasons to think that this group is among the worst in the league, as the Patriots ranked next to last in total yards allowed and passing yards per game allowed. They also ranked third from the bottom in total yards per play allowed.

The issue in using that prism to gauge this team's performance is that it doesn't properly give a full measure of just how effective New England's defense has been this year.