BEYOND WEEK 7

Once a week, Mark Craig will dissect stats from around the league. This week, he tackles the Patriots’ defense.BY THE NUMBERS Patriots’ points allowed per game (8.0)

For his next bit of NFL mastery, Bill Belichick will try to produce the first defense to allow fewer than 10 points per game over a full season since 1977.

Yeah, the Patriots (6-0) have a long way to go. But when it comes to Belichick, stay tuned.

The league grew tired of too much defense by the end of the 1977 season. It sparked a landmark offseason in which multiple rules loosened the defensive stranglehold and led to today’s wide-open passing game.

Suddenly, offensive linemen were allowed to extend their arms and use their hands. Suddenly, defensive backs couldn’t make contact with receivers beyond 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Suddenly, everything began to change.

From 1975 to ’77, the Rams (9.6), Steelers (9.9) and Falcons (9.2), respectively, led the league in scoring defense. Since then, no team has reached single digits, including the famed 1985 Bears (12.4).

If the Patriots can defeat four decades of offensive-favored rule changes by allowing fewer than 10 points per game, it would be one of Belichick’s greatest of many feats.

Did you know stats of the week

MVP for Russell Wilson? 14 TDs, no INTs

The Seahawks (5-1) are keeping pace with the 49ers (5-0) in the NFC West in large part because Russell Wilson is having an MVP-caliber year. Playing host to Baltimore on Sunday, Wilson has thrown 14 touchdown passes with no interceptions. That’s the fifth best such streak to start a season behind Cleveland’s Milt Plum (16, 1960), Kansas City’s Alex Smith (18, 2017), Philadelphia’s Nick Foles (19, 2013) and Denver’s Peyton Manning (20, 2013).

Fantasy-land stat only: Matt Ryan’s 300-yard streak

Possibly the greatest example of 300-yard passers being the most overrated benchmark in Reality Football as opposed to Fantasy Football could come when the 1-5 Falcons play the Rams in Atlanta on Sunday. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is trying to become the first player in NFL history to start a season with seven consecutive 300-yard passing games. He’s tied with Kurt Warner (2000) and Steve Young (1998) at six now. If the Falcons are down three scores and Ryan reaches 300 yards on his 59th pass, it’s doubtful the game will be stopped to honor the record.

MARK CRAIG