Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I'm jealous of Galley Reader Buder, who's making the trek to Florida to watch the Eagles shock the world. He writes:
Yo,I'm heading down to Jaxadelphia Friday afternoon. Any Galley Slave-ites heading down there shoot me an email as me and the boys explore the finer sides of Jax's evening entertainment.

Update: Egads! Buder now tells me:
Thanks for the post. Just to clarify however, (and this could be good or bad) I am travelling down to Jaxadelphia with 9 Patriots fans lmao. I have no worries that the Green Wave will be fully represented.

Join him at you're own risk; he and his crew may be unhappy after the game.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. Just to clarify however, (and this could be good or bad) I am travelling down to Jaxadelphia with 9 Patriots fans lmao. I have no worries that the Green Wave will be fully represented.

Anonymous said...

Further update:
I am an Eagles fan (diehard to be sure) and it will be more fun with the Pat fans. They are all fat and happy and consider this game to be already over. It sure will be fun to destroy the dynasty before the coronation.

Note: We are all displaced Pats/Eagles fans now down in SC, which is why this unlikely alliance exists)

Victoria said...

It's clearly the year to root for the underdog. Go Birds!

Rock Throwing Peasant said...

In case you're interested, I do a statistical breakdown for each Eagles game for a football bulletin board. If some of the language doesn't match up, it's because I don't feel like editing it to change the audience. If interested in past work (to measure accuracy, http://rockthrowingpeasant.blogspot.com/). Anyway:

New England Patriots
This post is a direct copy from the Eagles site I frequent, so if some language seems out of whack, it's because the original intended audience was a football bulletin board

Standard disclaimer applies. Stats only show part of the game and are by their nature selective. However, they can give some insight if the numbers are handled carefully. I count more plays than the NFL because I count plays results nullified by penalties if the penalty has no effect on the result (1 yard run converts a third down, but defensive holding wipes the play away, for example). Not perfect, but since I use an entire season’s stats and plays, it dulls any significant spikes, I think. Don’t like it? Be my guest to do better.

Okay, so since this is the Super Bowl I decided to go all out. I scripted out the first fifteen plays for each game of the season, including this year’s playoffs and the playoff run during their last Super Bowl. I broke down the Patriots on first down, second and long situations (7+ yards), third down conversions, rushing distribution, punt coverage, and other general stats.

First 15 Plays

The Patriots, as far as I know, don’t script their first 15 plays. So, following the deconstructive nature in a certain controversial novel, I figure they may be ripe for pattern recognition. (In the book, a guy has sex at random places, but an observer notes his pattern follows the chaos theory and V-2 rockets subsequently falls where he last had “relations.” In doing so, he actually is a free actor and the universe, of all things, is more doomed to follow his pattern. I regress [for Smiff fans]).

As a whole, the Pats have a 55/45 pass/run mix. Not surprisingly, 63% of their passes and 35% of their total plays are passes to WRs. They also rarely give up sacks in the first 15 plays. 10 sacks out of well over 300 plays (172 pass plays). They may not script their plays, but they sure have them down pat. There are some patterns worth noting. For one, they almost always pass to WRs on the third play. This may likely be a result of the third down situation. Would make sense.

Regardless, what’s really interesting is that their yardage drops off significantly after the first ten or so plays. They average 6 yards per play for the first nine plays every game. The next six (and presumably the following ones)? They average four yards per play. This might not seem like a lot by itself. However, of the ten sacks they gave up in the first 15 plays, 6 came during plays 10-15. I realize the sample is too small to make any definitive declaration regarding the sacks. The first six plays per game, they average about seven yards per play. Plays 10-15, they average four. Take their best shot (first ten plays or so) and you see a dropoff in yards gained per play. The Patriots also set a record of some type this year by scoring first in X number of games. They clearly come out and execute in their first series. After that, it looks like the gameplan become more fluid and less successful.

Finally, Brady has thrown more than double the INTs for passes 11-20, opposed to his first ten throws. Same raw numbers for passes, too, though his yards per attempt dips by a yard and a half. What am I saying? I’m saying something happens after the first ten or so plays and before halftime and the Eagles can capitalize. The second quarter is the time for the Eagles D to strike and force three and outs.

Patriots Running Game

When running during the first 15 plays, they ran 22% to the right, 47% to the middle and 31% to the left. This pattern holds true for their overall run distribution. Dillon pounds the ball between the tackles 47% of the time (4.1 ypc). When they do bounce him to the outside, it is more likely to the left (33% of his runs). What’s odd is that he’s very successful to the outside, average a yard more per carry to the left (5.1) and a yard a half more to the right (5.7). Is this due to Dillon or the OL play? Well, non-Dillon runners (WRs end arounds, QB sneaks, Faulk, Pass) average about 3.6 yards per carry. There’s also no significant increase to the outside. Without Dillon, their run game becomes very pedestrian. Dillon was a pretty steady runner, rarely having a bad game. I think he set a record for consecutive 100 yard games for the Pats, too.

One more thing. The Patriots have a heavy package using DL as eligible players. Klecko checked in a lot of times through the season but is now on IR. Seymour checked in, but is coming back from injury. Would he see time? Doubtful. Maybe Hochstein checks in. If he does, I’d fully expect run, run, run.

First Down Yardage

When the Patriots run on first down, they gain 0-3 yards approximately 50% of the time (includes negative yards, a stat the Eagles defense led the league in). Same with the pass (including sacks). Clearly, this puts the Pats in 2nd and long nearly half the time. More on this later.

One interesting observation is the Pats really focused on the run in the last half of the season and the playoffs. They went from rushing on first down 54% of the time to rushing 63% of the time. The trend can actually be traced back to the Jets and Steelers games. Brady was sacked 7 times and, more importantly, lost the Steelers game. I think Belichick adjusted the playcalling to slow down the pass rush and buy Brady more time early in the game. There’s every reason to believe he will emphasize the run on first down during the Super Bowl.

On first down alone, Brady throws for 59%, 8 yards per pass, and has had 24 20+ yard completions on first down. Contrast that with second down. YPA drops over a yard, big plays drops to 11, and his completion % jumps. His QB rating is much better on second down because he got a lot of his TDs on second down. It looks as though Belichick shortens the passing game on second down to get some yards to make third down manageable. Not earth-shattering, but worth noting.

2nd and Long (7+ Yards)

When faced with second and long, most teams look to shorten the yardage so third down in manageable. The Pats go more for the throat, so to speak. They pass 70% of the time. Of those passes, 60% go to WRs, 18% to TEs, and 16% to RBs. Overall (run plays included), they pass to WRs 42% of the time (TEs 12.5%, RBs 11%). They rarely run, but if they do, the go up the gut (18% overall and 59% of run plays). Almost a quarter (10 of 45) of their sacks came in 2nd and long situations. Following on the last section, I’d bank on short, high completion passes to WRs on second and long.

How often will the Patriots be in this situation? The Patriots average 12 2nd and long situations per game. They average 65 plays per game and 18% of their plays are 2nd and long. I didn’t run other teams to see if this is out of the ordinary, but it sure seems like a high proportion.

To blitz or not to blitz? When defenses blitz, Brady’s QB efficiency drops nearly 20 points. He goes from (non-blitz) 63.8%, 21 TD, 8 INT, 99.2 rating to 55.1%, 7 TD, 6 INT, 80.3 rating (blitz stats from espn.com). There’s no appreciable difference in yards per attempt or completion, either. Situations will dictate, of course, but this looks like an ideal time to send an extra man.

Third Down

The Patriots, propelled by a strong running game, are very effective in third and short situations (3 yards or less). They convert 63% of short yard plays overall and 76% when they run. Considering they run the ball very well, I expected to see a heavier run to pass distribution. They ran more, but not by a super wide margin. Part of this comes from the packages. In the play-by-play, I saw the RB Pass (his name) in on third down, as well as Faulk. Dillon’s not a bad receiver (1,600 yards receiving in his career), so it probably has more to do with keeping the entire playbook open on third down.

Third and long they rarely run for it and for good reason – they rarely convert it by running (four times all season). They do fairly well on third and long overall (39%). As the season wore on, they didn’t do as well on third and long. Their conversion dropped from 43% to 34%. Factor in one element, though. Division rivals were far more effective in stopping conversion than non-division foes (32% vs. 41%).

Punt Coverage

The Patriots punt coverage team has taken some heat from the press. From numbers, it’s impossible to say what the deal is. They allow about 12 yards per return (34 total returns – including playoffs). Nine times this season, they’ve allowed an average of ten yards or more on punt returns. Four times, they’ve allowed punt returns of 20+ yards, two of those were 70+ yard returns. There is no difference between home and away games in return yardage, though Miller nets about three more yards per punt on the road (31 yards net).

When Westbrook had punt return duty last year, he had 20 returns. Two returns went for TDs and he averaged 15 yards per return. Considering the Eagles punt return team has lacked a punch, they may be tempted to use Westbrook to exploit the coverage mismatch. Wynn gets about 10 yards per return, so if they stick with him they should get that amount of yards. He just may not hit a homerun like Westbrook can.

On the flip side, the Eagles allow 6.5 yards per return and the Patriots average 5.8 yards per return (long 23 yards). The Eagles hold a special teams coverage/return edge.

QBs Facing the Patriots

There has been some discussion around the league regarding the quality of the QBs who played against the Patriots. Looking over the QBs and punching in the numbers, there is no appreciable statistical difference between the QBs the Eagles faced and the QBs the Patriots faced. Of course, there are individual situations that aren’t factored in. When the Pats faced the Ravens, Jamal Lewis didn’t play. When they played the Browns, Suggs didn’t play. This isn’t meant to knock the Pats, just to point out that there are situations behind the numbers that can’t be easily reflected. Similar situations happened with the Eagles.

So, I don’t think they faced QBs of lesser quality. The Pats haven’t faced a really mobile QB this season, but have in the past. The most mobile they faced this year might have been Boller. On the flip side, the Eagles have faced QBs that react well to blitzes (Culpepper, Vick, maybe Garcia). I don’t think there’s an appreciable difference here. They throw for about the same amount of yards per game for the same TD and INT rate.

The passing yards per game for the second half of the season remained somewhat steady and a little over 220 yards per game. The Patriots run defense, however, really stepped up. They dropped the average yards per game by about 40 yards per game. Granted, they faced less talent.


Historically, the Pats offense will sputter a bit (not stall) after the first ten plays and may struggle a bit in the second quarter.
The Pats will emphasize run on first down.
If Hochstein checks in as eligible, I expect the Eagles to go DT heavy, as they did in the GB game to counter the run.
The Pats will be in second and long about 12 times in the Super Bowl and will pass their way out of it, more likely to the WRs on short routes – not necessarily looking to convert the down.
The Eagles can be successful if they blitz and Brady’s efficiency drops significantly when blitzed.
The Patriots third and long conversion took a hit later in the season and in the playoffs.
The Eagles hold a distinct edge in the punting game.
There is no appreciable difference between the QBs the Pats faced and the ones the Eagles faced.