Tom Curran: Matt Patricia common denominator between 2017 and 2021 Patriots defense

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Curran: Patricia common denominator between 2017 and 2021 Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Dak Prescott threw for more yards than any other quarterback against the New England Patriots in the Bill Belichick era Sunday. 

The Dallas Cowboys, as a team, gained 567 yards of offense, also the most against a Belichick-coached defense in New England. 

But all season long, the Patriots have underachieved defensively, and NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran has a theory on why: the return of Matt Patricia, even in his undefined role.

"It's coaching," Curran said on Post Game Live. "In 2017, Matt Patricia's last year here, they weren't a good defense -- at all. They gave up 41 points in the Super Bowl, they almost got beat by Jacksonville and Blake Bortles."

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Patricia, who had been New England's defensive coordinator from 2012-17, left to coach the Detroit Lions following New England's 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII -- the previous mark for most yards allowed in the Belichick era, with 538. 

After going 13-29-1 before being fired in November 2020, Patricia returned to Foxboro, where he has been acting in a variety of roles that remain unclear.

But as Curran points out, the 2018 Patriots got back to the Super Bowl and won it, holding the Los Angeles Rams to just a field goal in a 13-3 win. In 2019 -- a season which saw the team exposed down the stretch -- New England nonetheless set a franchise record for fewest points allowed with 225.

Even in last year's 7-9 debacle, Curran points out, there were games in which the defense looked great.

"Now Matt Patricia has returned -- and they are setting franchise records," Curran said. "I don't know what role he's got, but we've got a common denominator in the house."