PATRIOTS OFFENSE PROBABLY MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN YOU THINK AMIDST DEFLATE-GATE
There's been way too much talk this week about deflated balls, and not enough about the true strengths and weaknesses of the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks heading into this Sunday's Super Bowl. But, today's our day to talk about the New England OFFENSE in our weeklong series of statistical preparation. So, let's hit the topic head on.
The New England Patriots don't avoid turnovers because they deflate footballs amidst a pass-happy attack that sees their quarterback and receivers having great grip. They avoid turnovers amidst a conservative attack that's always emphasized turnover avoidance...and...then...they might also sway the percentages a bit with some chicanery.
The jury is still out on the chicanery. But, it's always been clear that the Belichick/Brady era has been about moving the chains, protecting the ball, and finding the end zone. Today's stat report will help handicappers understand that in greater detail.
365.5 yards-per-game (#11 in the NFL)
5.5 yards-per-play (#12 in the NFL)
Notice that New England plays at a fast pace...yet only ranks #11 in total yardage. This is not the Patriots of a few years ago. This is not an AFC version of the Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, their numbers are hurt some because they weren't at full strength early in the season. But, this is still not quite the juggernaut of media hype. They sometimes have huge offensive games. Last week's blowout of Indianapolis was more about earning cheap points off field position than gaining big yardage (less than 400 total yards even though the final score was 45-7).
107.9 yards-per-game (#18 in the NFL)
3.9 yards-per-carry (#22 in the NFL)
27.4 carries-per-game: (#13 in the NFL)
The Patriots have trouble in terms of "pure" running. Only 3.9 yards-per-carry isn't very good at all, particularly for an offense that scares people with its quarterback. You may remember that the Pats only rushed for 14 yards in their playoff survival game against Baltimore. That being said...they have basically transformed the "short passing" game into a modern running attack. Brady throws a lot of "extended handoffs" that don't go very far downfield. So...their outlook isn't as bad as those numbers make it look. What they consider relatively safe ball transfers show up in their passing yardage.
257.6 yards-per-game (#9 in the NFL)
7.0 yards-per-pass (#20 in the NFL)
38.1 passes-per-game: (#7 in the NFL)
You can see what we mean here. New England is only #20 in the NFL in yards-per-attempt because they throw so many short, safe passes. They do pass a lot...and they rank top 10 in total passing volume. But, it's with a safe approach that leads to fewer picks, fewer sacks, fewer fumbles off of sacks, and...if the receivers focus on ball protection after the catch...fewer fumbles.
Frankly, those are still disappointing numbers for what used to be a more potent New England attack. The "best" of the Brady/Belichick era would rank higher than that, even after you adjust for some receiver injuries. This is a much more contained team than the peak of the era. They're not going to run away and hide from Seattle unless the Seahawks have a second-straight turnover debacle. The deflate-gate hoopla should remind you that this is a SAFE attack rather than an explosive one.
13 in the regular season (#1 in the NFL - tied with Green Bay)
And, this drives the point home. New England earned the #1 seed in the AFC, and then the berth in the Super Bowl because they make fewer high impact mistakes than everyone else. We talked about that in game previews through the season...because their turnover differential was always more impressive than their YPP differential. That tie with Green Bay is interesting since Green Bay just missed beating the Seahawks last week...and probably would have if it was Belichich/Brady sitting on a big lead rather than McCarthy/Rodgers (more McCarthy than Rogers). New England is +3 in turnover differential in the playoffs (1-2 vs. Baltimore, 1-3 vs. Indianapolis). They must play clean again to finish off the sweep.
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We've already talked about both sides of the ball for Seattle. If you missed those articles, please check the archives. Tomorrow brings our look at the Patriots defense. Here's what's ahead the rest of the week in the NOTEBOOK.
Friday: Analysis of the New England Patriots' DEFENSE
Saturday: Super Bowl preview with JIM HURLEY'S key indicators
Sunday: Super Bowl game day notes
The week is flying by. Media day is over (thank god!), and now it's time to really focus on the stuff that MATTERS when trying to pick a winner in the Super Bowl. When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!
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