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New England Patriots' defense stifling opponents at historic rate

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady may not be satisfied with the way the New England Patriots' offense is playing, but when asked about his teammates on the defensive side, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time gushed.

"The way our defense is playing, as long as we don't turn the ball over, we know we have a great chance to win because they are playing as well as any defense I have ever played with," Brady said Monday on WEEI's The Greg Hill Show. "It is really spectacular to watch from the sideline."

"Yeah, I'm not going to argue with Tom (Brady) on this one," said Bill Belichick when I asked. "That's his opinion. I wouldn't argue with him on that. If that's the way he feels, great."

But how do you feel, Bill?

"I'm not really thinking about ranking anything or I don't really care about some defense five years ago, 10 years ago or 15 years ago," Belichick said. "I don't think any of that is really relevant. What's relevant to me is getting ready for the Giants and correcting the things that happened in the Washington game that we need to fix, both on a coaching level and a playing level."

Typical answer from the coach in-season. That might change postseason, though, should this defense keep performing at this outrageous pace -- or even something close to it.

The numbers through the first five weeks of the regular season are staggering. I don't want to bog you down with too many stats, but there's a mountain to choose from, carving in stone what your eyes have witnessed:

-- The Patriots are the seventh team since 1940 (and first in 30 years) to not allow a passing touchdown over the first five games of the season.

-- The Pats' current opposing passer rating of 44.0 is the lowest allowed through five games since 1996, when the Packers had a 33.1 mark. (The lowest passer rating allowed over an entire season in the Super Bowl era is 33.1, by the 1973 Steelers. The lowest passer rating allowed in an entire season since 2000 is 48.4, by the 2002 Buccaneers.)

-- New England's 24 sacks are the most by any team through five games since 2000.

-- The Patriots (12.7 percent) are the first team since 1991 (as far back as our third-down data goes) to allow a third-down conversion percentage lower than a 20.0. (The next-closest through five games is 21.0 percent by the 2006 Bears. The lowest third-down percentage allowed through an entire season since 1991 is 25.2 pct, by the 2017 Vikings.)

"I mean, look at the stats through five weeks," Brady said. "They are very good in the secondary. They have really great players. They have a great rush. Linebackers are so versatile. They are so well-coached. It's fun to watch. Only five games into the year, I am sure they think they have a lot to prove."

I know, I know. The Patriots haven't exactly faced a murderous schedule. Three of their victories have come over winless teams (the Dolphins, Jets and Redskins), and only one of their five opponents (Buffalo) has a winning record. But you can only play who's in front of you. And to this point, the Pats have put opposing offenses through hell.

"We have crazy depth," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said. "In that (linebacker) room alone, we've got guys who can play outside linebacker, inside linebacker, defensive end, put John Simon at the nose, I'm at the nose, Jamie (Collins) at the nose, the 3-, the 4-, the 5-(technique). The more you can do, Bill (Belichick) always says. Whenever you're versatile and we're able to communicate and give offenses different looks or different things each and every week because we know it and we're smart enough to make changes on the move."

"We're the boogeymen," he added, specifically taking about the linebackers. "All of us, we want to be the engine and the starting force of the defense. We know if we go out and play well, that'll hype every other spot, whether it's in the front seven or the back seven."

The boogeymen of our youth were scary. The self-proclaimed boogeymen of our present are currently stingier (6.8 ppg) than the '85 Bears (12.4 ppg) and '00 Ravens (10.3 ppg). As Belichick reminds us, there's a long way to go, but what the Pats defense has done thus far is unrivaled.

Follow Mike Giardi on Twitter @MikeGiardi.

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