FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A troubling trend has emerged for the New England Patriots on defense over the last three games, as they're giving up the big play with too much frequency.
In Sunday's 26-20 loss to the New York Jets, it was a 48-yard catch-and-run by Quincy Enunwa in overtime to set up the winning touchdown, which was preceded in the third quarter by a 33-yard down-field touchdown grab by receiver Brandon Marshall.
In both cases, the defense could have played it much better.
Enunwa was sprung free when defensive backs Tavon Wilson and Leonard Johnson were playing on the same level and collided with each other. On Marshall's touchdown catch, safety Duron Harmon acknowledged he would have helped himself by looking back for the ball.
The week before, it was Titans tight end Delanie Walker racing 57 yards for a catch-and-run touchdown that included a powerful stiff-arm. Receiver Dorial Green-Beckham also had catches of 30 and 29 yards.
And on Dec. 13 against Houston, receivers Nate Washington (49 yards) and DeAndre Hopkins (40) had downfield strikes that could have hurt more if the Texans weren't buried deep in their own territory at the time.
Add them up, and that's seven passing plays for 286 yards over the last three games.
Not a winning formula -- though playing without top safety Devin McCourty (ankle) hasn't helped -- and something obviously on Bill Belichick's radar.
"You never want that to happen. That’s the first thing defensively that you want to do is prevent big plays, not give it to them all in one chunk," Belichick said.
"There have been some running plays, there have been some passing plays, there have been some tackling issues. Sometimes we’ve gotten beat, sometimes we haven’t properly played the defensive call or alignment, so it’s been a combination of things, none of which we want to happen so we’ve just got to do a better job of that."