Patriots Notes: Bye The Numbers

The New England Patriots have this Sunday off as part of their bye week schedule. All teams in the league get one week to rest their players, and recharge before the final string of games are played out. Week seven has the Patriots sitting at home watching their AFC East rivals jockey for position within the division. Sitting Pat at 3-3, the bye week is a good time to reflect on some of the other important numbers besides wins and losses.

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Patriots Notes: Bye The Numbers
By Dave Fletcher

Back in August, Bill Belichick said he would have a better answer for what kind of team he has after six weeks. Unfortunately, thanks to a rash of injuries and an especially difficult schedule, the Patriots (3-3) have hit their bye week with more questions than answers.

The Patriots have neither lost consecutive games nor have they posted back-to-back wins. The defense has been maddeningly inconsistent. And thanks to a struggling running game, the offense has become one-dimensional. Forget about each game being its own entity, these 2005 Patriots’ performance has fluctuated from quarter to quarter.

“Now I can't sit here and say it was this thing or that thing,” said Belichick on Monday. “It's been a combination of things. I think you could point to several areas that, just statistically, aren't very good -- not that stats are the answer. But when it relates to points, they're significant.”

Rare is the statistic that does not relate to points scored in some fashion. With that in mind, here are the numbers that tell the story of the first six games:

14 - The number of quarters that have come and gone without the Patriots defense forcing a turnover. Points are the direct descendent of the takeaway, and it is a tribute to the offense that it has managed to stay effective without the benefit of short fields and tired defenses forced to work overtime.

125 - Rushing yards allowed by New England per game. This number isn’t all that bad considering the defensive line has been banged up and the Patriots have faced ball control teams such as Denver, Atlanta, San Diego and Pittsburgh. This average figures to go down as New England begins playing teams that aren’t at the top of the league statistically in rushing the football. The Patriots still have four meetings with Miami and the New York Jets, both of whom rank in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards per game.

79% - The success rate opponents have had against the Patriots at scoring touchdowns inside the red zone (15 for 19). That ranks New England dead last in the NFL.

3.4 - Corey Dillon’s yards-per-carry in five games (he did not play against Denver). This drop comes the year after he averaged 4.7 ypc while gaining 1,635 yards in just 15 games. The good news is he has still found the end zone five times.

164 - The total points opponents have scored against the Patriots, a 27 points-per-game average and the most any team in the AFC has yielded. Only St. Louis has allowed more points so far this season.

228 - Tom Brady’s pass attempts so far this season. With the Patriots on pace to throw the ball 608 times, seven more than they did in 2002 when they missed the playoffs, Brady is shouldering more of the load this season than in any other year. On the same token, he’s on pace for more than 4,800 passing yards which would better his career high by over 1,000 yards.

37.3% - New England’s conversion rate on third downs. Last year, the offense was able to turn a third down into a fresh set of downs 45 percent of the time.

12 - Passing touchdowns the Pats defense has surrendered in six games, ranking them second to last in the NFL.

102.2 - Opposing quarterbacks’ rating against New England. The Patriots are one of only five teams to allow a rating of 100 or better. This number is especially frustrating considering they have faced Kerry Collins and Jake Plummer, two quarterbacks known for being turnover-prone. New England’s reputation for terrorizing opposing quarterbacks is beginning to deteriorate.

353 - Average total number of yards per game against the Patriots defense, 24th in the NFL.

There seems to be a lot of bad news for the Patriots based solely on statistics. But numbers don’t always tell the whole story. There is a lot of good news for New England as they prepare for the final ten games of the season. There are several immeasurable factors that should help the Patriots in the playoff run.

No. 1 on that list has to be the return of Tedy Bruschi after the middle linebacker endured a stroke just eight months ago. Everyone seems to have their own take on whether Bruschi is returning to the field too soon or whether he should even return to the field at all. Certainly, no one can doubt that his comeback -- whether it is against Buffalo on Oct. 30 or after -- will be one of the most emotional moments in the franchise’s history. His mere presence will bring leadership and character to a defense which has been lacking any real identity since Rodney Harrison went down in Week 3.

The imminent return of Richard Seymour may not provide the same emotional boost as Bruschi’s return, but it will restore New England’s most disruptive force on the defensive line. Seymour’s presence should benefit everyone on the team, from the linebackers who will have easier paths to ball carriers, to the secondary, who won’t have to hold coverage for quite so long with an improved pass rush.

The schedule also sways into the Patriots’ favor over the final ten games, as New England faces AFC East opponents six times. Already tied for first with Buffalo in the division, the Patriots control their own destiny down the stretch. None of their divisional counterparts are in any better shape than the Patriots. The Jets had to Vinny Testaverde out of retirement to quarterback their offense in place of the injured Chad Pennington. The J.P. Losman experiment in Buffalo failed by Week 4 while the defense has suffered several injuries to their front seven. And Miami’s pass rush has disappeared thanks to injuries and age.

Meanwhile, things aren’t quite as bad in Foxboro as they have seemed over the past month and a half. The best days are likely still ahead of the Patriots, which is a good thing considering it is only the end of October. It has been six weeks now, yet the only certainty for the Patriots at this point is that these next ten weeks will truly be the ones that define the 2005 season.


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