FOXBOROUGH — Nearly everyone on the New England Patriots knew the statistics of their next opponent.
It’s hard not to be aware. The Carolina Panthers rank near the top of the league in virtually every defensive category.
“They’ve got every stat, every category — third down, red area, sacks, and they turn it over. They’ve got it all,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said yesterday of their Monday Night Football foe. “They’re one of the best defenses in the league. So we have to play really well.”
More like perfect.
The Panthers (6-3) are second in the league in fewest points (12.8) and yards (283.3) allowed per game, and are fresh off their most impressive showing of the season Sunday when they held San Francisco to 151 yards of total offense and just nine points in winning their fifth straight game.
That’s hardly all.
The vaunted unit has allowed a league-low 144 first downs, boasts the third-most takeaways (21) and ranks sixth on third down, allowing opponents to covert on just 33.9 percent of their attempts.
Carolina’s last five opponents — Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco — scored a combined four touchdowns.
“Teams aren’t really scoring on them. They’re not doing much against them. Nine points last week from the Niners. That’s not what we want. We hopefully can do a little better than that,” said five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Logan Mankins. “They haven’t been giving up much of anything — the run, pass, points, they’re good in the red zone, good on third down. They’re good at everything right now.”
Despite a 7-2 mark entering their bye last week, the Patriots have experienced a roller-coaster season, with Brady adapting to a new set of young receivers and just recently benefiting from the addition of his favorite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski.