Pats' second-half surges tied to defense

In a column posted to ESPNBoston.com, Jackie MacMullan notes a trend that has developed over the past three seasons that's difficult to ignore. The Patriots have posted a perfect 21-0 record in the second half of the season since 2010.

Not coincidentally, as the team peaks in the final weeks, the defense's performance improves significantly, and the proof is in the numbers.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, since 2010, opposing quarterbacks in the first half of the season registered a Total QBR of 68.6 against the Patriots, which left New England ranked 30th in the NFL.

But, in a dramatic turnaround, the Total QBR for opposing quarterbacks over the second half of the season drops to 37.4, or second-best in the league.

Total QBR is a rating that summarizes all of the quarterback's contributions (passing, rushing, fumbles, sacks and penalties) into a 0-100 scale where 50 is average.

Your turn: Is this Patriots defense a championship-caliber unit or do you still cringe when it's on the field with the game on the line? Sound off in the comments section.