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Devin McCourty: Secondary is letting the Patriots down

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After acquiring Stephon Gilmore in free agency this offseason and pairing him with the likes of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Malcolm Butler, the New England Patriots came as close as any club to forming an all-star secondary on paper.

But through four games, the 2-2 Patriots are dead last in total defense. Their 456.8 yards per game surrendered is more than 50 more than the struggling Indianapolis Colts.

New England gave up 444 yards and 24 first downs to the Panthers in a 33-30 loss on Sunday.

"It's frustrating when it's communication, it's not really ability. I have to get better at the communication part. It's my fault on the communication," Gilmore said, via ESPN.com.

Added McCourty: "It's bad. We're letting the team down."

A team with Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia heading the defense will inevitably fix the cracks. Lost in all the preseason hype about the Patriots going undefeated -- something I honestly thought was possible and wrote about several times -- was the fact that New England was folding in some brand new pieces in high profile spots on both offense and defense.

Tom Brady seems to have overcome the loss of safety valve Julian Edelman on offense by feeding Chris Hogan, James White and Rob Gronkowski at an increased rate, but the defense is still adapting to a new skill set.

The last-minute courtship and high price tag signing of Gilmore went against the grain for typical Patriots personnel moves but it wasn't without precedent. The only thing that would truly be stunning is if Belichick and Patricia couldn't get the defense turned around. The club travels to Tampa Bay this Thursday with a good chance to make a statement against Jameis Winston, another quarterback fond of airing out the football.

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