Today's ESPN Boston Hot Button tackles a question on the Patriots' defense: Was the dominating performance we saw against Denver proof that the unit has finally turned the corner, or was it more of an indictment of the ineptitude of the Broncos?
Mike Reiss argues it was the former, drawing a comparison with the 2006 Colts: "The Colts showed it can be done, as they flipped a switch and looked like a different unit in the postseason. The return of injured safety Bob Sanders, who was limited to four regular-season games with a knee injury, provided a major postseason spark as the Colts' last-ranked run defense buckled down to hold opponents to an average of 73.3 yards per game in the playoffs.
"For the Patriots, one could make the argument that the returns of safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes after seven-game absences have been Sanders-like. The defense looks different with those two in the lineup. More energy. More spark. More physicality. More production (14 negative plays against the Broncos)."
Chris Forsberg, meanwhile, took the other side of the argument: "Yes, the Patriots were phenomenal in limiting Tebow to a mere nine completions and 136 passing yards. Here's another appropriate description of that performance: Outlier.
"The Broncos ranked 23rd in the NFL in total offense (316.6 yards per game) and 31st in passing (152.1 yards per game). Let's not confuse them with the 2000 Rams, just like no one should suddenly see shades of the 1985 Bears in these Patriots after one solid performance.
"In fact, New England's offense was its best defense Saturday. Two early touchdowns forced the Broncos to try to throw their way back into the game and, let's be honest, Tebow's 2011 highlight compilation will include far more clips of him doing damage with his legs than his arm."
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