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Super Bowl Nuggetpalooza, Part 2: When the Patriots have the ball

02.03.12 at 9:18 am ET

We’re just two days from the “Big Game” and as promised, here’s part two of my Super Bowl Nuggetpalooza:



* – Against the Ravens, the Patriots won for the first time in their postseason history despite a turnover margin of -2 or worse. It was their 10th such postseason game, including their 2009 loss to those same Ravens.


* – The Patriots have not scored in the first quarter in any of their four Super Bowls in the Belichick era, but they have either led (three times) or been tied (once, against the Giants) at halftime in all four.

Note this: In those four New England Super Bowls, there have been 92 points scored in the fourth quarter (both teams combined). In the first three quarters? Only 82 total points (both teams combined). The Giants (157) and the Patriots (142) ranked first and third during this regular season in fourth quarter points scored.


* – Stephen Gostkowski went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts from 40 or more yards during the 2006 postseason, including the Patriots’ only postseason make from 50+. Sine then, he’s attempted only one kick from 40+ in the playoffs, and failed on that attempt. Over the last two regular seasons, Gostkowski and the Patriots are 12-for-15 from 40+ yards, a respectable 80% conversion rate, above the league average of 73%.


* – The Patriots tight ends gained 136 receiving yards against the Giants in Week 9, one of four times during the regular season that the G-Men allowed 100 or more yards to opposing tight end combos. No team allowed 100+ yards to opposing tight ends more than the Giants this season (the Panthers also allowed 100+ yards four times). The 136 yards picked up by Gronkowski and Hernandez were the most against the Giants this (regular) season and the second most against them since the 2000 season (184 by Jason Witten and other Cowboys in 2009).

Note this: Vernon Davis’ 112 receiving yards was the most ever by a tight end against the Giants in a postseason game. Included was a 73-yard touchdown reception, just the third play of 70 or more yards by a tight end in NFL postseason history (Shannon Sharpe, 96 yards in ’01 and John Mackey, 76 yards in ’71).


* – The Patriots ranked eighth in the league in average starting field position this regular season, averaging their drive starts at the 29.3-yard-line. They were also in the top 10 in drives started in their opponents’ territory (i.e. past the 50-yard-line) with 26. In their two playoff tilts, New England’s average drive start was the 34-yard-line against Denver and the 31-yard-line against Baltimore. They began one drive in each game at or beyond the 50-yard-line.

Note this: After allowing opponents to begin 15 drives in Giants territory over their last nine games of the regular season, New York’s three playoff opponents have had 37 total possessions, all starting on their own side of the field (i.e. more than 50 yards from pay dirt).


* – Two weeks ago against Baltimore, Danny Woodhead returned a kickoff 41 yards. It was the longest kickoff return of the season for the Patriots. This was the first regular season since 1994 in which the Patriots failed to return a kickoff at least 40 yards as their longest was 37.


* – After averaging 6.39 yards on their first down plays during the regular season (ranked fourth), the Patriots have revved it up in the postseason, averaging 7.14 yards on their 70 first down plays. They’ve run 36 times for a 5.00 average and passed 34 times (including one sack) for a whopping average of 9.41 yards per pass play on first down.

Note this: Since they began tracking the stat in 1991, only three teams have allowed a lower net yards per pass play on first down in a single postseason than the Giants’ 3.24 this season (min. 25 opponent first down pass plays):

1.72 – Patriots, 1997
3.00 – Jaguars, 1999
3.02 – Chiefs, 1993
3.24 – Giants, 2011


* – Patriots receivers were the NFL’s most sure-handed group this season, dropping only 5.2% of passes deemed “catchable”. Last season, they dropped over 10% of catchable balls, third worst in the league. Here are the individual breakdowns (look at the tremendous improvements from Welker and Hernandez):

Welker – 122 catches, 5 drops (3.9%); Last year – 13.1%
Gronkowski – 90 catches, 5 drops (5.2%); Last year – 2.3%
Hernandez – 79 catches, 4 drops (4.8%); Last year – 13.5%
Branch – 51 catches, 2 drops (3.8%)
Woodhead – 18 catches, 0 drops (0.0%); Last year – 2.9%
Ocho Cinco – 15 catches, 1 drop (6.3%)
All others – 27 catches, 5 drops (15.6%)

Note this: The Patriots’ top five pass catchers combined for a drop percentage of just 4.2% of catchable balls.


* – New England averaged 4.71 points on their 28 drives of 10 or more plays this season, second best in the league:

5.48 – Packers
4.71 – Patriots
4.52 – Giants

In the postseason, the Pats had one long drive (resulting in a FG) against Denver, then they exploded for FIVE such drives against Baltimore, accoounting for all 23 of their points. The Patriots’ regular season high in long drives was just three (four times) and their high in points off long drives was 17 (Week 2 against the Chargers).

Defensively, the Giants have allowed three long drives (total) in their three postseason wins and those drives resulted in just one field goal.


* – The Patriots have done a terrific job of managing the sticks in their two playoff games. They’ve faced 17 third downs, but only four where they needed eight yards or more (24%). During the regular season, 37% of New England’s third downs needed 8+ yards (72-of-194). Oh, and the Pats are 6-for-13 (46%) on 3rd-and-seven or less in the playoffs (including 0-for-3 on rushes) and 2-for-4 on 3rd-and-eight or more.

Note this: In the regular season, when the Patriots tried to run the ball on third or fourth down, they converted on 28-of-46 tries (60.9%), the second best percentage in the league. Only the Redskins (63.0%) were better this year. The Patriots also were second in the league during the 2010 season.

Note this too: The Giants have been stout on third downs, allowing just 7-for-22 conversions on third down and seven yards or less (32%) in the playoffs. They were much less effective during the regular season in those situations, allowing 49% conversions (59-of-121). Can they keep it up against the Patriots?


* – In the regular season, the Patriots averaged 6.7 yards after the catch per reception, the highest mark in the league. What’s more, their 2,704 total yards after receptions set an NFL single season record (since 1992), breaking the mark set by the 1995 49ers by more than 200 yards.

Note this: The Patriots put up a higher average YAC than their opponent in 12 of their 16 regular season games this season, but have been “out-YAC’d” in both of their playoff games, as Denver averaged 6.3 YAC (vs. 6.0 for New England) and Baltimore averaged 5.4 YAC (vs. 4.8 for the Patriots).


* – Fourth down has not been much of a factor in the playoffs for the Patriots as they are 1-for-1 (Brady’s touchdown dive against Baltimore). However, it’s worth noting that the Giants allowed 10 fourth down conversions during the regular season, tied for the most in the NFL (with the Ravens).


* – The Giants have not returned an interception for a touchdown in either of the last two seasons (regular or postseason). Unless they take one to the house on Sunday, it will be the first time that they’ve gone two full seasons without one since they had none from 1973-1976. Here’s the thing… over the last six seasons, the Patriots have allowed only three pick-six interceptions, tied with Baltimore and Oakland for the fewest in the league in that span.


* – Remember when the Pats’ intercepted Flacco in the fourth quarter and then Brady got picked off throwing a bomb on the next play? Did you know that they didn’t commit a turnover on a possession following a takeaway in the entire 2011 regular season OR the 2010 regular season/playoffs?


My pick: Patriots 37 Giants 33.



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