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Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Giants!

11.05.11 at 9:20 am ET
By

Are the Giants, 5-2 and leading the NFC East, for real? We’ll find out in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon as the Pats face that “other” team from New York. Here are some stats to get you ready:

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* – New England has won 54 consecutive home games when they’ve taken a lead into halftime. Their last such loss was a 27-24 decision to the Dolphins on Christmas Eve, 2000, after the Pats led 21-17 at the break. It’s far and away the longest such streak since 1997:

54 – Patriots (2001-current)
25 – Dolphins (1998-2002)
22 – Eagles (2003-2005)
22 – Packers (2009-current)

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* – This is the 8th consecutive season that the Giants have started 5-2 or better:

2004 – Started 5-2; Finished 6-10
2005 – Started 5-2; Finished 11-5
2006 – Started 5-2; Finished 8-8
2007 – Started 5-2; Finished 10-6
2008 – Started 6-1; Finished 12-4
2009 – Started 5-2; Finished 8-8
2010 – Started 5-2; Finished 10-6
2011 – Started 5-2;

From 2004 through 2011, the Patriots and Giants rank first and second in winning percentage over the first seven games of the season:

.786 – Patriots (44-12)
.732 – Giants (41-15)
.714 – Colts (40-16)

The Giants’ problem is that after those fast starts, they’ve stumbled down the stretch to the tune of 29-34 (.460) over the last seven seasons.

Note this: Having said all that, the Giants have won the season’s 8th game in 13 of the last 16 seasons and are 8-2 when their 8th game has been on the road since 1995.

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* – There was lots of hand wringing last week about the 36 pass completions allowed by the Patriots, and yes, that’s a lot. But let’s break them down:

Thrown 10 yards or less downfield: 31-for-40 (78%) for 272 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; +1.42 rating;
Thrown 11 yards or more downfield:  5-for-10 (50%) for  93 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions; -0.33 rating;

80% of the Steelers’ passes were thrown 10 yards or less downfield. Coming into the game, only 59% of Pittsburgh’s throws (and 65% of throws against New England’s defense) this season had traveled 10 yards or less.

Entering last Sunday’s contest, the Patriots had actually defended against those short passes fairly well, allowing a +0.09 rating (13th). They were much worse on passes beyond 10 yards, allowing a +1.59 rating (26th).

The Patriots allowed Steelers’ receivers to gain 199 yards after catches last Sunday, the 4th most against New England since they began tracking the stat in 1992. 180 of those came on short completions, an average of 5.8 per catch. Any guesses as to how often the Pats have allowed greater than 5.8 YAC yards on short passes? If your answer was “in seven of their last eight games”, give yourself a gold star.

So other than the fact that the Steelers were uncharacteristically content to dink and dunk their way down the field, it doesn’t appear that the pass defense was nearly as bad as it seemed.

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* – So will the Giants use the same approach? Doubtful. Here is the same breakdown for the Giants offense through eight weeks:

Thrown 10 yards or less downfield: 108-for-149 (72%), 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; +1.47 rating (4th in NFL);
Thrown 11 yards or more downfield:  48-for-92 (52%; ranked 5th), 7 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; +2.59 rating (4th in NFL);

Only 62% of New York’s passes have been 10 yards or shorter this season, but they’ve been awfully effective at both short and long throws so far this season.

So good, in fact, that the G-Men (mostly Eli Manning) have put up the third best overall rating in the league:

+4.08 – Packers
+2.11 – Patriots
+2.02 – Giants
+1.73 – Texans
+1.39 – Lions

Their lofty mark is helped by 7.8 net yards per pass play (3rd), 5.1% touchdowns (6th), and 2.0% interceptions (8th best). Quite an improvement from their 14th ranked +0.26 rating last season.

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* – The Patriots have scored 31 points (four touchdowns and a field goal) on their seven game opening possessions this season, tied for the league lead with Houston and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Giants have allowed 20 points to their opponents on their opening drives. Only Jacksonville (35) and Green Bay (21) have allowed more.

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* – Giants’ opponents have converted at least one fourth down (actually, they’ve converted EXACTLY one) in every game this season. The seven game streak is one shy of the NFL record (since they began tracking the stat in 1991), set by the Rams in 2004. Bears opponents also had a fourth down conversion in seven consecutive games during the 2000 season.

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* – The Patriots have run the ball 14 times on third down this season and picked up the first down 11 times, a league high 78.6% conversion rate:

78.6% – Patriots (11-of-14)
71.4% – Vikings (15-of-24)
69.2% – Saints (18-of-26)

Want a little more sample size? Since the start of last season, the Patriots have picked up the first down on 31-of-37 rushing plays on 3rd-and-2 or less (83.8%), the highest percentage in the league, just ahead of Atlanta (83.3%) and the Jets (77.8%).

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* – So far in 2011, the Patriots’ passing game has been relatively unaffected by opponent blitzes. They’ve completed 71% against blitzes (2nd) for a league leading 7 TD. Their net yards per pass play against blitzes (8.88) is 95% of their gross average (9.36), meaning that sacks have costed them only about 5% of their passing yardage against blitzes.

But the Giants pass defense has been terrific when they blitz, allowing just 4.04 net yards per pass play (4th), which is a league low/best 77% of their gross yards per pass play allowed (5.26).

Note this: Even when New York doesn’t blitz, their net yards allowed (6.73) is just 92% of the gross (7.34). That 92% ranks third in the league, indicating that their pass rush is still potent without extra rushers. That’s probably why they’ve only blitzed on 27% of opponent passing plays, just 20th most often in the league.

NFL Note: Here are the teams that have blitzed on the highest percentage of opponent pass plays this season:

56.8% – Saints
48.5% – Texans
48.2% – Browns

And the lowest percentage of blitzes:

16.9% – Lions
17.0% – Eagles
19.2% – Colts

Rex Ryan’s Jets, notorious for their infatuation with blitzes, ranks 6th this season, having blitzed on 44.0% of opponent pass plays.

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* – New York has thrown only one third quarter touchdown pass in their last 13 games. Only Minnesota (none in their last 18 games) and, surprisingly, San Diego (none in their last 13) have thrown fewer third quarter TD passes in that span.

Weird NFL Note: There were 35 TD passes thrown in the third quarter over the season’s first three weeks. There have only been 31 in the FIVE weeks since.

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* – The Giants can’t run it on first down and can’t stop the run on first down. So far in 2011, the Giants have rushed 93 times on first down for 281 yards, for a league low average of 3.02 yards per carry. On defense, opponents have run 106 times on first down for 600 yards, for a league worst 5.66 yards allowed per carry.

Since 1991, the Giants have never been the worst in the league at either one of those averages in any season.

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* – The Giants have AVERAGED 12 fourth quarter points per game over their last five games. This after they scored 12+ in the fourth period just once over their previous 25 games.

Note this: New York has won 15 of their last 19 *ROAD* games when they’ve scored a fourth quarter touchdown.

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* – Patriots pass rushers were credited with just 1 “quarterback hurry” in last week’s loss in Pittsburgh. That just continued a bad trend in this area: They racked up five hurries out of 53 pass plays (9.4%) in Week 1 against Miami but have only 7 in 247 pass plays since then (2.8%).

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* – Once inside their opponents’ 30-yard-line, the Giants have averaged 5.2 points per possession this season, tops in the NFL:

5.18 – Giants
5.17 – Packers
5.00 – Titans

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* – Finally, from twitter: On the heels of my pass defensed stats on Patriots’ linebackers this season, @SSiewar wanted some historical perspective. So far in 2011, Patriots linebackers have now been targeted 74 times and defensed just three passes (one each by Nincovich, Guyton, and Spikes). Since 2000, only 10 different New England linebackers have been targeted 50 or more times and here are top three in percentage of targets that were defensed:

38.9% – Willie McGinest (28-of-72)
20.9% – Adalius Thomas (14-of-67)
20.3% – Teddy Bruschi (49-of-241; By far the most targets/defenses among NE LB’s since ’00)

The worst? Jerod Mayo, who has just 10 passes defensed out of 182 targets (5.5%).

Thanks for the question!

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Enjoy the game!

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