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Nuggetpalooza: How do the stats look in the Patriots matchup with Tim Tebow and the Broncos?

12.17.11 at 9:28 am ET
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Here’s my take on “Tebow-mania”: I’m a fan of the sport, so I tend to overlook all the esoteric stuff that doesn’t have anything much to do with the games themselves. But I’m not blind, and Tim Tebow is the most polarizing athlete in years, maybe ever. There’s no gray area with him. Fans either love him or hate him.

But as a fan of the sport, I just see that the guy’s team seems to win the games that he plays in. I give him a lot of credit for stepping up despite all the criticism that’s been heaped on him from all corners (“He can’t play quarterback in the NFL”) and making it work to the best of his ability. But give the most credit to John Fox and the Broncos‘ coaching staff for thinking outside the box to come up with an offensive system in which Tebow can thrive (to whatever extent possible) and to Tebow’s teammates, for recognizing his ability as a leader and for buying into the possibility that they can have success with him at the helm. That’s not easy to do in this age of the rich, pampered athlete who is generally hesitant to leave his comfort zone. Love him or hate him, it’s been breathtaking to watch.

Can Tebow and the Broncos take down the 10-3 Patriots? It shouldn’t happen, but New England better not get caught flat on Sunday. Get ready for this week’s NFL’s headliner with some numbers I’ve noticed:

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* – Since the start of the 2006 season, the Patriots defense has faced an opposing quarterback for the first time on 30 occasions, winning 27 of those games, including games against the Colts (Orlovsky) and the Chiefs (Palko) this season. Here are the losses in that span:

November 7, 2010 at Cleveland (Colt McCoy)
October 11, 2009 at Denver (Kyle Orton)
September 20, 2009 at NY Jets (Mark Sanchez)

Their last such loss, prior to the three listed above, was also at Denver, on October 16, 2005, with Jake Plummer at the helm. So two of their last four losses against quarterbacks they’ve faced for the first time, have come at Mile High.

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* – Denver has scored 111 of their 269 points in the fourth quarter this season (41.3%). That would be the highest percentage since the 2005 Dolphins (43.7%).

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* – By winning last week, Denver became just the second team in the last eight seasons to win three overtime games in a single season:

2010 Redskins
2003 Panthers
2002 Chargers
2001 49ers
1997 Steelers

Note this: No team has ever won four overtime games in a season.

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* – The Broncos have gone 3-and-out a league high 51 times this season, already surpassing their previous club record of 50 in a single season since they began tracking the stat in 1995 (set in 1999 and last year). For the record, since 1995, only one team that has finished 30th or worse in 3-and-outs has won more than eight games in a season (the 11-5 Bears of 2005) and they’ve averaged just 5.1 wins each.

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* – Tim Tebow enters Week 15 with a 48.5 completion percentage on 198 attempts. No quarterback has attempted 250+ passes and completed fewer than 50% of them since the Bengals’ Akili Smith in 2000.

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* – Denver held the Bears to 12 first downs and 86 passing yards last week, their fewest of each allowed in 42 games since a 23-3 rout at Oakland in early 2009.

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* – During the seven seasons from 2004-2010, no team won more than five times in a season in games where they scored seven points or fewer in the first half.

This year, Denver and Arizona have EACH done it six times, joining the ’99 Jaguars (7), ’00 Titans (6), ’01 Steelers (6), and ’03 Patriots (6) as the only ones in the last 15 years to win six or more games despite such a low scoring first half. Denver has won four straight in that fashion (only time any team has done it in last 15 years) and Arizona has won five of their last six games this way (after winning just two such games in the last five seasons combined).

Note this: The Rams have not won a game after scoring seven points or less in the first half since 2006, losing their last 37 straight (including last Monday’s game against Seattle).

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* – Last week the Redskins had six rushes of 10 or more yards, tied for the most allowed by the Patriots since the start of the 2003 season.

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* – The Patriots have failed to record a rushing play of 10 or more yards in four of their last eight games. Prior to that, they failed to have a 10+ yard running play in four of their previous 111 games. Their 12 “big” runs since Week 7 are the fewest in the league in that span:

12 – Patriots
13 – Giants
15 – Browns

The Broncos? They have a league leading 47 running plays of 10+ yards over the last eight weeks.

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* – After getting knocked down 21 times over two games spanning Weeks 7 and 8, Tim Tebow has suffered only 17 knockdowns over the last six games combined.

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* – Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty, returning from injury, was targeted a whopping 15 times last week (he had just 75 coming in), allowing eight catches and 142 yards. He has now allowed a league high 59 catches for 912 yards. Since 2000, only six defensive players have allowed 1,000 or more yards in receptions in a season:

1,055 – DeAngelo Hall, Redskins (2010)
1,048 – Marcus Trufant, Seahawks (2004)
1,022 – Samari Rolle, Ravens (2006)
1,021 – Jason David, Saints (2007)
1,007 – Cedric Griffin, Vikings (2007)
1,006 – Alex Molden, Chargers (2002)

Obviously, if McCourty has another week last the last one, there will be a new name at the top of that list.

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* – The Broncos lead the league with a 5.93 rushing average to the right side this season. The Patriots’ defense has allowed a 5.00 average on runs to the right (from the offense’s perspective), one of only five teams allowing five or more yards per rush in that direction.

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* – Denver’s six false start penalties are the fewest in the NFL this season. However, their eight flags for delay of game are the most in the league.

NFL Penalty Notes: Indianapolis’ opponents had two false starts last Sunday, snapping a streak of six consecutive games (and nine of the last 10) without one… No Giants’ opponent has been flagged for offensive holding since Week 5, spanning eight consecutive games. San Francisco’s opponents have been dinged for offensive holding only once in the last nine games… Arizona’s pass defenders have been flagged for pass interference 12 times this season. No other team has more than eight PI penalties.

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* – The Broncos are now 2-3 this season when they’ve lost the turnover battle. Compare that to their 1-13 mark in such games over the last two seasons.

Another reason to keep an eye on the turnover margin, Pats’ fans: Since the start of the 2009 season, the Patriots have had more giveaways than takeaways in six road games… and they’ve lost all six.

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* – Both teams have been pretty horrendous at cashing in on drives started in enemy territory. Denver has had 18 such opportunities and scored only 32 points (1.72 per drive), the second lowest/worst average in the league (KC, 1.45). But, surprisingly, the Patriots have been no better, averaging just 1.88 points on 17 such drives, ranked 29th.

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* – B is for “Belichick” and “Bendability”: OK, everyone knows that the Patriots defense has been terrible this season. The fact that they are last in the league in yards allowed (with an outside shot at breaking the all-time record) is no surprise to anyone. But, without looking it up, shout out where are the Patriots ranked in POINTS allowed. Go ahead… They’re ranked 14th. That’s a difference of 18 spots between their ranks in yardage allowed and points allowed. Since the goal is to keep opponents from putting points on the board, let’s call any ranking differences where a defense is ranked higher/better in points allowed than yardage allowed “Positive Bendability”. Well, no team since 1984 has had a positive bendability score higher than +18. Only one team since then has equaled it and if you guessed the 2001 World Champion Patriots of Bill Belichick and also champions of the Tuck Rule Game, you get a gold star.

Here are a few other notes regarding bendability scores: The Patriots’ have recorded a positive score (or zero) for bendability in each of the last 19 seasons and in 26 of the last 27. Not impressed? Try these other teams on for size: Baltimore’s legendary defense has been zero or positive in only 10 of their 16 seasons. I include zero for them especially because they led the league in both categories FIVE TIMES. Dallas’ score has actually been NEGATIVE in 16 of their last 26 years. Pittsburgh? Positive only 9 times in the last 22 years. Atlanta is sporting the second longest current streak of zero or positive scores (working on 11th straight year) but prior to that was positive in only three of the previous eight.

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Enjoy the game! It should be fascinating. Do you have a comment, suggestion, or just want to talk football? Leave a comment here, tweet me (@nuggetpalooza), or send me an email (gmarbry@weei.com).

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