Patriots - Dolphins: Statistically Speaking

The New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins come into the final regular season game riding the two longest winning streaks in the AFC. The Pats, winners of four straight and six of their last seven, have steadily become one of the AFC's best playoff-ready teams. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have churned out five straight victories and now have their first winning record since week 3 at 8-7. One team's streak will come to a halt on Sunday. PI's Ricky Popolizio breaks down the numbers.

With playoff implications only for New England, this week 17 matchup will come down to the Patriots’ desire to claim the number three seed in the AFC East. With a win and a Cincinnati loss, the Pats can grab that number three spot. The Patriots will likely be without MLB Tedy Bruschi but need to continue to play solid defense. New England gave up more points (21) against the Jets last week than they did in their previous three outings (10). The Pats will need to contain Ricky Williams, who had by far his best rushing output of the season against the Titans last week (172 yards). The Dolphins will continue to do what they have been doing at a high level of intensity on Sunday. New England needs this game to carry their current momentum into the playoffs.

 

The Corey Dillon Effect:

With the win over the Jets, the Patriots remained undefeated this year when Corey Dillon scores a pair of touchdowns. Dillon ran for 77 yards on 26 carries at the Meadowlands, while rushing for a TD in his fourth straight game (5 TDs). The Pats have only lost once in 2005 when Dillon has recorded one score. Still, Dillon needs to increase his production, as he has only broken the 100 yard mark twice this season.

The Patriots will also likely use a healthy dose of Kevin Faulk on Sunday. Faulk received 10 carries and ran for 38 yards last week. New England’s goal will be to win the game, and to keep both Dillon and Faulk fresh for the first playoff matchup.

Corey Dillon's numbers, game by game:

Wk

Team

Carries

Yards

Av.

TDs

1

Oakland

23

63

2.7

2

2

Carolina

14

36

2.6

0

3

Pittsburgh

22

61

2.8

2

4

San Diego

14

63

4.5

1

5

Atlanta

23

106

4.6

0

6

Denver

DNP

-

-

-

7

Bye

-

-

-

-

8

Buffalo

21

72

4.0

2

9

Indianapolis

13

40

3.3

0

10

Miami

DNP

-

-

-

11

New Orleans

DNP

-

-

-

12

Kansas City

DNP

-

-

-

13

NY Jets

16

65

4.1

1

14

Buffalo

22

102

4.6

1

15

Tampa Bay

19

48

2.5

1

16

NY Jets

26

77

3.0

2

TOTALS

209

733

3.5

12

Dillon’s 12 rushing touchdowns is tied for 5th best in the NFL, but his rushing yards is ranked 25th and his yards per carry is tied for 35th. Dillon needs to improve on both of those numbers to help the Pats win in week 17 and in the playoffs.

Dolphins Rush Defense:

The Dolphins rush defense, the 19th ranked unit in the NFL, is giving up an average of 114.9 yards per game. However, the Fins have allowed just 94.7 yards per game (to primary backs) over their last six contests. The improved rush defense has helped win five straight games. During that stretch, they did not allow an opposing running back to gain 100 yards. The last time Miami lost, Reuben Droughns collected 166 yards on the ground for Cleveland. Miami has also not allowed an opposing back to rush for a touchdown in four games.

Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor have been sensational this season. Thomas is currently second in the NFL with 152 tackles. He trails only Jonathan Vilma (166) of the Jets. Thomas also has four forced fumbles (T-7th in NFL) and one interception. Jason Taylor is currently tied for fourth in the NFL with 12 sacks. He also has recorded 70 tackles and four forced fumbles.

Last time out against New England, Thomas made 12 tackles and Taylor had three tackles and a sack. Corey Dillon did not play, but Heath Evans ran for 84 yards on 17 carries for the Pats.

How the Dolphins have fared against their last 6 opposing runners:

Wk

RB

Team

Carries

Yards

Av.

TDs

11

Reuben Droughns

CLE

30

166

5.5

1

12

LaMont Jordan

OAK

23

97

4.2

2

13

Willis McGahee

BUF

27

81

3.0

0

14

LaDainian Tomlinson

SD

21

75

3.6

0

15

Cedric Houston

NYJ

15

84

5.6

0

16

Travis Henry

TEN

16

65

4.1

0

Avg. per game (primary RB)

22.0

94.7

4.3

.50

The Jets have allowed 17 total rushing touchdowns this season (not limited to primary running backs). It is tied for the third highest total in the NFL.

Brady's Impact:

With one week remaining in the regular season, Tom Brady leads the NFL with a career high 4,074 passing yards. It is only the third time in New England Patriots’ history that a QB has reached the 4,000 yard mark. The Dolphins biggest weakness this season has been the pass defense, and Brady has an opportunity to put up big numbers against them.

Brady has completed over 60 percent of his passes in his last three outings. He has also compiled a QB rating of 100.65 over the last four games. His season rating of 93.0 would be one of the best in Patriots history if he has a good outing on Sunday. With Sunday’s game in Foxborough and the temperature likely under 40 degrees, Brady will be in his comfort zone. Brady, who was named to the Pro-Bowl for the third time this year, is 20-0 when the temperature dips below 40.

Brady's numbers week by week:

Wk

Opponent

Att/comp

Yards

Pct

TDs

Int

Rate

1

Oakland

24/48

306

63.2%

2

0

105.8

2

Carolina

23/44

270

52.3%

1

1

69.3

3

Pittsburgh

31/41

372

75.6%

0

1

92.7

4

San Diego

19/32

224

59.4%

1

1

78.1

5

Atlanta

22/27

350

81.5%

3

1

140.4

6

Denver

24/46

299

52.2%

1

0

79.9

7

BYE

-

-

-

-

-

-

8

Buffalo

14/21

199

66.7%

1

0

113.0

9

Indianapolis

22/33

265

66.7%

3

0

121.4

10

Miami

21/36

275

58.3%

2

2

77.9

11

New Orleans

15/29

222

51.7%

3

0

111.6

12

Kansas City

22/40

248

55.0%

1

4

42.5

13

NY Jets

27/37

271

73.0%

0

0

93.4

14

Buffalo

29/38

329

76.3%

2

2

97.4

15

Tampa Bay

20/31

258

64.5%

3

0

122.8

16

NY Jets

18/29

185

62.1%

2

1

89.0

When Brady posts a QB rating of 100 or above, he is 31-1.

Dolphins Pass Defense:

The Dolphins pass defense has been mediocre all season long and has not been any better lately. Giving up an average of 206.9 yards per game, the Dolphins pass D is ranked 19th in the NFL. Three of the past four quarterbacks the Fins have faced have attained QB ratings over 100. The more alarming fact is that all three of those quarterbacks are sub-par, part-time QB’s.

Jason Taylor has consistently been the Dolphins’ most dangerous pass rusher. His 12 sacks lead the team (fourth in the NFL with 12 sacks), and he will need to disrupt Brady from getting into a groove on Sunday. The Fins also need to create turnovers. Over the last five games, they have made four interceptions and own an even turnover differential this season.

Miami limited Tennessee’s Billy Volek to just 132 yards on 14 of 24 passing attempts last Sunday. A similar performance against Tom Brady is unlikely. On November 13, Brady threw for 275 passing yards and two touchdowns. However, the Dolphins were in the game because of two Brady interceptions. Safeties Travares Tillman and Yeremiah Bell recorded the interceptions.

How opposing QB's have fared vs. the Dolphins the last 6 games:

Wk

QB

Opp

Comp/At

Yards

Pct

TDs

Int

Rate

11

Trent Dilfer

CLE

11/18

137

61.1%

1

0

103.2

12

Kerry Collins

OAK

21/37

226

56.8%

0

2

52.3

13

JP Losman

BUF

13/26

224

50.0%

3

1

102.1

14

Drew Brees

SD

35/52

279

67.3%

2

1

85.3

15

Brooks Bollinger

NYJ

28/42

327

66.7%

2

0

106.0

16

Billy Volek

TEN

14/24

132

58.3%

1

0

87.5

Dolphins Dual Rushing Attack:

Ronnie Brown was out of the lineup last week against the Titans but may return on Sunday. Brown’s void was filled by Ricky Williams, who exploded for 172 yards on 26 carries (6.6 avg.) and one touchdown. It was Williams’ highest rushing total since week 17 of 2002, when he ran for 185 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns against New England. In the past two games, Williams has averaged 5.8 yards per carry and has rushed for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He has a touchdown in four of his last five games.

Here are Williams/Brown's numbers over the last 6 games:

Wk

Team

Carries

Yards

Av.

TDs

11

Cleveland

25

139

5.6

0

12

Oakland

31

140

4.5

2

13

Buffalo

20

68

3.3

1

14

San Diego

22

58

2.6

0

15

NY Jets

26

115

4.4

1

16

Tennessee

26

172

6.6

1

TOTALS

150

692

4.6

5

Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown have combined for 1521 yards on 339 carries (4.5 avg.) and nine touchdowns this season. In six career games against the Pats, Williams has rushed for 521 yards and three touchdowns.

Patriots Rush Defense:

Last week in ABC’s final telecast of Monday Night Football, the New England Patriots held Jets running backs to just 34 yards on the ground. Week 16 marked the fourth consecutive week in which opposing running backs have failed to compile at least 35 rushing yards against the Pats. Following Larry Johnson’s solid 119 yard, one touchdown performance in week 12, opposing runners have combined for a meager 89 rushing yards and no touchdowns in the last four weeks. No other team in the NFL has been as effective at stopping the run in that time span as the Patriots. New England’s task on Sunday will be to stop Ricky Williams, who last week against Tennessee erupted for 172 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

New England’s improvement in stopping the run can be credited in large part to the continuing emergence of linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, and the improving health of the stalwart run stopping defensive end, Richard Seymour. The Patriots have started to show continuity on defense at the perfect time, and their run defense has skyrocketed all the way up to fourth in the NFL, allowing only 95.5 yards per game. MLB Monty Biesel will need to play a strong game in place of Tedy Bruschi to fill the gap in the middle.

How opponent RB's have done vs. the Pats:

Wk

RB

Team

Carries

Yards

Av.

TDs

1

Lamont Jordan

OAK

18

70

3.9

0

2

Stephen Davis

CAR

25

77

3.1

3

3

Willie Parker

PIT

17

55

3.2

0

4

LaDainian Tomlinson

SD

25

134

5.4

2

5

Warrick Dunn

ATL

19

83

4.4

0

6

Anderson/Bell

DEN

28

171

6.1

2

7

BYE

-

-

-

-

-

8

Willis McGahee

BUF

31

136

4.4

0

9

Edgerrin James

IND

34

104

3.1

1

10

Lonnie Brown

MIA

14

64

4.6

0

11

Antowain Smith

NO

11

32

2.9

0

12

Larry Johnson

KC

31

119

3.8

1

13

Curtis Martin

NYJ

15

29

1.9

0

14

Willis McGahee

BUF

8

3

0.4

0

15

Cadillac Williams

TB

14

23

1.6

0

16

D.Blaylock/C.Houston

NYJ

8

34

4.8

0

Avg. per game (only primary RB)

20.71

78.57

3.8

.64

After allowing opponents to rush for seven touchdowns in the first six weeks, the Pats have allowed only two rushing touchdowns in the last nine weeks. Teams have been forced to go to the air. Only one back has rushed for over 65 yards since week 10.

Gus Frerotte as the Dolphins starter:

Gus Frerotte is having an average season at the helm of the Miami Dolphins. He has thrown 17 touchdowns, tying a career high. But he has also thrown 13 interceptions and completed only 51.2 percent of his passes. Frerotte, however, has been good enough to help the Dolphins win their last 5 games, their longest winning streak since 1999. During that 5 game winning streak, Frerotte has thrown only three interceptions while tossing seven touchdown passes. On Sunday Frerotte will try to exploit New England’s 28th ranked pass defense.

Frerotte's last 6 games breakdown:

Wk

Opponent

Comp/Att

Yards

Pct

TDs

Int

Rate

11

Cleveland

4/18

53

22.2%

0

0

39.6

12

Oakland

18.31

261

58.1%

2

1

93.6

13

Buffalo

12/28

115

42.9%

0

0

54.9

14

San Diego

14/22

229

63.6%

2

0

128.8

15

NY Jets

8/16

76

50.0%

1

1

58.3

16

Tennessee

14/30

151

46.7%

2

1

70.3

Frerotte has completed 235 of 459 passes for 2757 yards and 17 touchdowns (13 interceptions) this season. His completion percentage is 51.2 percent and his QB rating is 70.3.

Patriots Pass Defense:

For the fourth consecutive game, the Patriots held the opposing quarterback to less than 200 yards passing. Vinny Testaverde and Brooks Bollinger combined for 163 yards last Sunday. Prior to this four game stretch, the Pats had held only one quarterback under 200 yards in 11 contests. This recent improvement has been significant for the Pats pass defense that still ranks 28th in the NFL, giving up an average of 231.5 yards per game. New England has seen that number drop to 158.5 YPG over the last four weeks.

The Pats have also picked off nine passes in the last nine games. Previously, New England had just one interception in the first six games. Sacks are also coming in bunches. A week after New England recorded a season high 12 sacks against Tampa Bay, the Pats made four sacks against the Jets. Mike Vrabel had a complete game for New England last week with a sack and two touchdown receptions.

Game-by-game break down of opposing QB's vs. the Pats:

Wk

QB

Opp

Att/comp

Yards

Pct

TDs

Int

Rate

1

Kerry Collins

OAK

18/39

265

46.2 %

3

0

94.5

2

Jake Delhomme

CAR

11/26

154

42.3%

0

1

46.0

3

Ben Roethlisberger

PIT

12/28

216

42.6%

2

0

93.7

4

Drew Brees

SD

19/24

248

79.2%

2

0

137.5

5

Matt Schaub

ATL

18/34

298

52.9%

3

0

112.1

6

Jake Plummer

DEN

17/24

262

70.8%

2

0

134.4

7

BYE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

Kelly Holcomb

BUF

20/33

263.

60.6%

1

1

83.3

9

Payton Manning

IND

28/37

321

75.7%

3

1

117.1

10

Gus Frerotte

MIA

25/47

360

53.2%

2

1

83.6

11

Aaron Brooks

NO

27/50

343

54.0%

2

1

80.7

12

Trent Green

KC

19/26

323

73.1%

1

0

127.6

13

Brooks Bollinger

NYJ

15/37

135

40.5%

0

1

39.8

14

J.P. Losman

BUF

10/27

181

37.0%

1

3

33.6

15

Chris Simms

TB

21/34

155

61.8%

0

0

72.6

16

Bollinger/Testaverde

NYJ

14/26

163

53.8%

2

1

91.4

Opposing QB’s have thrown more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes (4) over the last four games, while completing just 48.3 percent of their passes.

Injury Impact:

The Patriots will likely be without MLB Tedy Bruschi on Sunday. Bruschi suffered a calf injury against the Jets last week but is expected to play in the first playoff game. Miami is expected to get running back Ronnie Brown back, but if not, Ricky Williams should a load of carries similar to that he received in week 16.

Final Thoughts:

This game is going to be a hard fought battle. Both teams come into the contest riding high, having not lost in a combined nine games. The Patriots do have a distinct advantage playing at home, as they have won 15 straight games when the game-time temperature is 35 degrees or colder. The Pats have also won 16 consecutive games played after Christmas day. New England has dominated the AFC as of late, taking 15 of the last 16 divisional games. The last loss to a divisional opponent came at the hands of the Dolphins last year in week 15.

The Patriots have completely dominated opposing offensive lines and running backs recently. If the Dolphins cannot get Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown going on Sunday, it will be up to Gus Frerotte (and maybe Sage Rosenfels or other backup QBs) to put up numbers and points. If the Dolphins are forced to win the game through the air, their chances may be well diminished. The Pats have been all over opposing quarterbacks. New England has recorded 11 sacks in the last two games.

For Miami to finish the season with a six game winning streak, they will have to defeat the Patriots at home during their most productive time of the year. The Pats franchise is 5-0 all-time in the month of January. They have won 29 of their last 32 games played after November 1st since 2001. What it boils down to: just about every late season statistic is in favor of New England in this one.

 

Ricky Popolizio is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider. For more of his past articles search the archives. To contact Ricky visit his bio page


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