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Georgia football, the New England Patriots and winning with a struggling offense
Fans are upset. A once capable offense has spent the past month floundering while a normally great quarterback has struggled. But the team continues to win thanks to an incredible defense. The weather has played a role in poor offensive performances, but at a certain point, that has to stop being an excuse.
I’m talking about the New England Patriots. But also the Georgia Bulldogs.
In New England’s past three games, the Patriots have averaged 15.33 points per game. Despite having Tom Brady at quarterback, the wide receivers and offensive line have battled injuries and inconsistent play. But the Patriots have won two of those games thanks to the efforts of a historically great defense. New England ranks first in scoring defense and given up the fewest passing touchdowns in the NFL this season.
As for the Bulldogs, they’ve averaged 22.33 points per game. Georgia’s been without Lawrence Cager — the team’s best receiver — while shuffling around offensive linemen. And the normally reliable Jake Fromm has posted three-straight games with a completion percentage below 50 percent.
Like New England, Georgia is still winning thanks to its defense. The Bulldogs given up just one rushing touchdown all season, rank second in the nation in scoring defense and given up the fewest points in the red zone in all of college football.
Georgia tight end Charlie Woerner said that having a defense of that caliber can be both a good thing and a bad thing
“It’s awesome to have our defense be as good as they are. It really takes a lot of pressure off us to score every drive. I guess it’s a bad thing to know they’re good enough to win us games,” Woerner said. “We need to put more points on the board.”
As for the issues with the offense in the Texas A&M game, Georgia coach Kirby Smart chalked up it to execution. There were a number of near misses on Saturday, none more glaring than the flea-flicker intended for George Pickens that should’ve been a touchdown.
Fromm admitted on Saturday that he needs to make that kind of play if Georgia is going to accomplish what it wants to. As for the issues with Fromm, Smart denied Monday that his quarterback had any issues with his arm.
“You’ve got to hit the open guy. I think Jake would be the first to tell you that,” Smart said. “We missed a couple, made a couple. There’s no easy throws.”
Georgia will have a chance to get right on the offensive side of the ball this week, as the Bulldogs face a Georgia Tech offense that ranks 82nd in total defense and 87th in scoring defense. The past three defenses Georiga has faced off against all rank in the top 25 in total defense.
Related: Yes, the Georgia football-Georgia Tech rivalry is still important to the Bulldogs
And it would really help to get this unit some confidence as a game against No. 1 LSU looms on Dec. 7. Georgia is going to need to win that game if it is to make it into the College Football Playoff. The Tigers defense hasn’t been stellar this year, but LSU is second in the country in yards per game and tied for second in points per game.
And as Smart often likes to remind people, this Georgia defense is not in fact perfect.
“We’ve got to force turnovers. We don’t sustain at the end of games,” Smart said. “Meaning we give up a pace drive or a rhythmic drive where somebody gets on rhythm and we’ve got to be able to stomp on people’s throats when you get them down.”
One only has to look at what happened when the Patriots met the Baltimore Ravens a few weeks ago for when a top offense meets a top defense. The New England defense was blowtorched to the tune of a 37-20 loss. And when Georgia played LSU last year, the Tigers ran for 275 yards on the way to a 36-16 win.
Both New England and Georgia want to see their season’s end the same way. They both have a defense that is clearly capable of winning games. Georgia and New England don’t need to put up Joe Burrow or Patrick Mahomes numbers to do so. Both teams can start by turning some of those field goals — Georgia and New England each attempted four this past weekend — into touchdowns.
For all the similarities just laid out between the two teams, one team does have a much rosier path to figure things out. New England still has plenty of time left in its season and is almost a lock to make the playoffs at this point. Georgia has just one regular-season game left to find its offense and would have to pull an upset just to get into the College Football Playoff.