New England Patriots: Belichick Not to Blame; How Patriots Fell from Grace

Though New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has made many, many defensive mistakes, he is still redeemable. His winning record says that he is not over the hill yet.

For his three Super Bowls, he had some fantastic support at the other coaching positions, and in the absence of Scott Pioli, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, he has thrust a larger share of the team's management upon himself.

Since the Super Bowl years, the scouting has gone downhill.

Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Deion Branch, Vince Wilfork, Asante Samuel and Ben Watson were all drafted during this era.

In the years following, the draft picks reflected a shift to a more offense-oriented team, defensive picks coming in the later rounds.

Approaching the new decade, a small focus on defense emerged, with safeties being picked first in both 2007 and 2009, while linebackers and cornerbacks took a fair number of spots as well.

Yet, today we watch the Patriots struggle to keep opponents below 400 offensive yards a game. The re-emphasis on defense has come out of a sense of urgency rather than return to center.

The Patriots have always thrived with a strong defense, most recently witnessed in 2007, when the Patriots became AFC champions, coincidentally settling on defensive players for four out of five of their first five picks.

The 2008 draft followed this trend, but the team lacked Brady to bring them to the playoffs. From 2009 till now, the only drafts picks that have made a lasting impact are the offensive ones. Linebackers and cornerbacks still form the cornerstone of the Pats' draft class.

The current defensive failures are not due to a lack of awareness, but a result of poor drafting.

There is still a great deal of hope for the Patriots in the future. Brady is aging, but Ryan Mallett appears to be, at the very least, a worthy temporary successor. Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Pat Chung and Brandon Spikes are starting to mesh as an effective defensive team.

Steven Ridley, Taylor Price, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Nate Solder are starting to look like future stars.

The offense is doing well, though the offensive line and Brady are getting up in years, and the defense is young. It may not be now or next year, but the Patriots will rework their past magic and come back on top. If not, the Bills are looking pretty hot, and Ralph Wilson Stadium is only an eight-hour drive from Boston.

Just kidding.

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