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Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Cowboys!

10.15.11 at 10:19 am ET
By

It’s already Week 6 and before the Patriots can enjoy the bye week, they’ll have a tough matchup against the Cowboys in Foxboro. Get ready with all the numbers that I bet you won’t see elsewhere:

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* – Lots was made of Tom Brady throwing his first red zone interception ever at home last week (although it wasn’t his fault). But for New England as a club, it snapped just an 18-home game streak without such a pick as Matt Cassel threw two in 2008. The longest home red zone interception avoidance streaks still going:

36 – 49ers (last was Week 14, 2006)
24 – Panthers
22 – Jets

Clip-and-save since I’m on the subject: While Denver hasn’t intercepted a red zone pass on the road since 2006 (38 road games), the Patriots have one such pick in four of their last five road tilts.

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* – The Patriots have won 19 straight regular season home games, tied with the 1997-1999 49ers for the third longest home streak since 1970. Only the Packers (25 in a row from 1995-1998) and the Broncos (24 straight from 1995-1998) have had longer streaks.

Note this: New England has scored 20 or more points in their last 19 regular season home games as well. If they extend the streak to 20, they will tie the longest home streak with 20+ points since 1970, currently shared by the 2007-2009 Saints and the 2003-2005 Chargers. Want some perspective? Carolina has played 10 home games since the beginning of last year and has put up 20+ points just twice.

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* – Last Sunday, Tom Brady and the Patriots completed 77% of their throws that were 10 yards downfield or shorter. It was the 57th consecutive game in which the Pats have completed 60% or higher on those short throws. Here are the three longest current streak of over 60% completions on such passes:

57 – Patriots
34 – Saints
21 – Seattle

Let’s take that one step further and see the streaks for 55% or higher on throws of 10 yards or less:

84 – Patriots
45 – Packers
44 – Saints

Note this: Dallas’ defense has held two of their last six opponents to under 60% completions on those throws.

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* – The best way to attack third-and-long situations is not to put yourself in them. Well, that’s the Patriots’ approach as they have attempted third down and six or more yards just 25 times, the fewest in the league. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to convert those situations whenever possible, and the Patriots have done that at a 40% clip, trailing only the Saints (55%).

Note this: Another reason to get into third-and-short this weekend: Dallas’ defense has allowed 70% conversions on third down and five or less, second highest/worst in the NFL. Only the Eagles (71%) have been worse.

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* – New England has led at some point in each of their last 13 games. Only Baltimore (21) has a longer streak going. Actually, Baltimore has only trailed in one of their four games this season. Dallas is one of 13 NFL teams that have trailed at some point in every game this season.

NFL Note: The Cardinals have trailed in each of their last 22 games, the longest such streak in the league.

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* – The Patriots ran for 152 yards last week and join Jacksonville, Minnesota, Oakland, and Philadelphia as the only teams that have put up at least 90 rushing yards in every game this season. In fact, New England now has 90+ rushing yards in their last 13 games. Only the Eagles (14) have a longer streak.

Here’s a breakdown of their rushing yardage:

Left: 4.57 average ranks 10th, 57 carries to the left ranks 4th, and four touchdowns over the left side leads the NFL. Last week against New York, the Patriots ran it to the left side 19 times for 101 yards, a 5.32 average, and two scores. They had not tried as many as 19 left side runs since 2006 (74 games ago).

Middle: Despite a 4.32 average per carry up the middle (4th), the Pats have tried just 28 such runs all season (23rd). Four of those carries went for 10+ yards though (14.3%), the 4th highest percentage in the NFL so far. Last week, they managed just 17 yards on five up-the-gut carries.

Right: 52 tries for 257 yards (both rank 7th) and a 4.94 average (12th).

First Down: NE’s 360 rushing yards on first down ranks 7th  and their 4.62 average is 8th.

4th Quarter: The Patriots have 49 rushes in the final stanza (2nd) for a league high 226 yards, 11 first downs (2nd), and a 4.61 average (7th). That’s called “putting the game on ice”.

I think the effectiveness and consistency of the Pats’ running game sometimes gets lost due to the video game passing numbers that the team puts up.

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* – The Patriots may have difficulty running the football against Dallas on Sunday, though. Their 3.13 rushing average allowed and 12.7% rushing first downs allowed leads the NFL so far in 2011. Last year, the Cowboys allowed a 4.31 rushing average, ranked 18th in the league. Dallas has not led the league in lowest rushing average allowed since 1974 but they have been in the top 10 five times in the 2000′s.

Note this: The Pats’ streak of games with 90+ rushing yards will be challenged on Sunday as the Cowboys are the only NFL team that has yet to allow 90+ rushing yards in any game this season as 74 is the season high against them.

Note this too: The Cowboys have allowed just 10 rushing first downs through four games this season. The Patriots AVERAGED nine first downs on the ground over their last two games and hung 10+ in a game three times in their last nine.

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* – Officially, the Patriots have now committed one fumble this season (I don’t know why Welker’s fumbled punt last week wasn’t counted), tied with Buffalo for the fewest in the NFL. Dallas has committed 12 fumbles, tied with the Jaguars, Rams, and Cardinals for the MOST in the league. Dallas has finished in the top five for fumbles four times since 2000, including a league leading 36 miscues in 2005. New England has ranked in the top four FEWEST fumbles in each of the last four seasons.

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* – Dallas’ opponent passing ratings (my rating) this season by quarter (lower numbers equal better defense; ranking is of their defense; 1st equals best):

1st: -4.39; ranked 3rd
2nd: -0.78; ranked 15th
3rd: -1.53; ranked 6th
4th: +1.89; ranked 27th

* – After allowing at least 48 and an average of 59 yards after contact on pass receptions over the season’s first four weeks, the Patriots’ defense allowed only 10 receiving yards after contact last Sunday against the Jets, tied for the second lowest figure this season in the NFL. For the season, they are allowing 1.93 average receiving yards after contact, ranked 20th. The top three:

1.05 – Lions
1.20 – 49ers
1.37 – Cardinals

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* – While the Patriots lead the league in first down passing yards (900) and first down net yards per pass play (10.11), their first down pass defense has been almost as bad as the offense has been good. They’ve allowed 891 pass yards and 10.36 net yards per pass play on first down, both league highs/worsts.

However, they have picked off five passes on first down, second most in the league:

7 – Bills
5 – Patriots
4 – Six teams tied

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* – New England has gone three-and-out seven times this season. Their defense forced the Jets into seven three-and-outs LAST WEEK. It was just the second time since the start of last season that the Pats’ defense has forced five or more three-and-outs in a game.

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* – The Patriots gained 132 yards last week on passes thrown 11 to 20 yards downfield and they’ve been over 100 yards on those throws in all five games this season. In their previous 38 games, they had eclipsed 100 yards on those throws only twice. There has been one other five-game streak of 100+ yards on those throws since 2003 (Colts, 2004).

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* – 55% of Dallas’ passing yards have come on pass plays of 20 yards or more, the highest percentage in the league:

55% – Cowboys
54% – Panthers
52% – Texans

Note this: Last season, only 41% of Dallas’ pass yards came on big plays (10th) and 45% in 2009 (4th).

Note this too: 53% of pass yards against the Patriots have come on plays of 20 yards or more, third highest in the league. Compare that to just 34% last season (8th lowest).

Quirky NFL Note: Five times this season a team has failed to have a pass play of 20 or more yards in a game… and they are 3-2 in those games.

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* – Buckle up, Tom. The Cowboys pass rush either gets a knockdown or a hurry on 24% of opponent pass plays, the 8th highest percentage in the league so far. Brady has not had a game where he’s been knocked down or hurried more than 22% of the time this year, but the trend is a bit disturbing. First three weeks: 14%, 10%, 7%. Last two weeks: 22%, 16%.

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* – After being flagged for offensive holding 12 times in 2009 and 13 times last season, the Patriots have already been hit with a league high eight holding penalties this season and are the only team with at least one flag for holding in every game.

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* – Dallas’ pass offense has been MUCH more effective so far in 2011 when their opponents don’t blitz. Cowboys’ opponents have blitzed on about 34% of pass plays, leading to 54% completions (18th), 8% sacks, 5.48 net yards per pass play (24th), and a rating (my rating) of -2.83 (26th). Compare those stats and rankings to those when Dallas’ opponents DON’T BLITZ: 70% completions (4th), only 3% sacks, 8.94 net yards per pass play (2nd), and a rating of +2.24 (5th).

The Pats’ pass defense, which has been pretty awful all season, has not blitzed much (17% of opponent pass plays) and has been a bit more effective when they DON’T blitz (7.67 net yards per pass play, ranked 28th, and a rating of +0.70, ranked 25th) than when they do (10.12 net yards/pass play, ranked 31st, and a +3.07 rating, ranked 27th). However, tomorrow, I’d consider dialing up the blitz a bit.

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* – When the Patriots have the ball, Brady doesn’t seem to care whether opponents blitz (which they’ve done 29% of the time) or not. His completion percentage is 68% against the blitz and 68% against no blitz. Net yards per pass play ranks third against blitzes (9.52) and third against no blitz (8.77).

His rating also ranks third against blitzes (+4.27) and non-blitzes (+2.50).

But Dallas’ sports two completely different pass defenses depending on whether they blitz (35%) or not:

Completion percentage allowed: 64% when they blitz (25th); 54% when they don’t (3rd)
Net yards per pass play allowed: 7.26 when they blitz (21st); 4.87 when they don’t (1st)
Rating allowed: +0.46 when they blitz (21st); -1.46 when they don’t (4th)

It was the same story last season as well. Dallas’ passing rating allowed when they blitzed was +1.56 (23rd) when they blitzed and -0.53 (14th) when they sat back.

Based on the evidence, I don’t expect to see the Cowboys bring the house tomorrow.

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Enjoy the game!

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