|Nuggetpalooza: All your offbeat Patriots-Bills stats!||09.28.12 at 9:08 am ET|
The Patriots try to put the gut-wrenching losses of the last two weeks behind them as they head to Orchard Park, N.Y., to face the improved Bills this Sunday. Read on for some stats that (I hope) will make you scratch your chin (or whatever it is that you scratch) and say “hmmm.” Or stats that you’ll at least find to be interesting and different.
* – CONSECUTIVE HEARTBREAKERS: The Patriots have lost consecutive games by one or two points for just the second time since 1970. The other such streak came in Weeks 5 and 6 in 1999, when they lost 16-14 at Kansas City and 31-30 against Miami. Only one team since the merger has lost three straight in such a fashion: The 2002 Jaguars, who were nipped 21-19 at Dallas, then 25-23 against the Steelers, and 21-20 against the Browns.
Note this: That 1999 streak of futility by the Patriots included a third game that was decided by one or two points, as New England beat Denver the following week, 24-23.
* – 20 POINTS AT HALF USUALLY IS ENOUGH: The Patriots lost last Sunday’s game after having won 33 of their last 35 road games in which they scored 20 or more points by halftime, dating back to the start of the 1976 season. The loss dropped their winning percentage in such games to .917 (33-3), still the highest by any team in that span (min. 15 such games):
.917 – Patriots (33-3)
.911 – 49ers (41-4)
.889 – Giants (24-3)
Note this: Houston’s teams in that span, the Oilers (8-0) and Texans (5-0), are unbeaten in 13 such road games.
* – DOMINATION OF THE BILLS: Since getting clocked by a 31-0 score in Orchard Park in 2003, the Patriots have gone 16-1 and averaged 30.3 points against the Bills. That’s the highest average by any team against a single opponent (min. 10 games) in that span:
30.3 – Patriots vs. Bills
29.2 – Colts vs. Texans
27.5 – Saints vs. Falcons
26.9 – Chargers vs. Raiders
Note this: Buffalo’s 12.8 average points against New England in that span is the second lowest by any team against a single opponent (same minimum). Only the Browns, who have averaged 12.2 points against Pittsburgh, are worse.
* – QUIET THE CROWD: New England has scored 30 or more points in 13 of its last 14 road games and each of its last six. Since 1970, here are the longest road streaks scoring 30-plus points:
8 – Rams (1999-2000)
7 – Patriots (2010-2011)
6 – Patriots (2011-current)
6 – 49ers (1984)
In their 42 road games since the start of the 2007 season, they’ve averaged 30.4 points, far and away the league leader in that span:
30.4 – Patriots
26.8 – Saints
25.7 – Packers
25.0 – Giants
* – TRENDING THE PATS AND BILLS: A couple of other trends in the series: The Patriots have had more first downs than the Bills in each of their last 13 matchups and the Bills have been hit with as many or more penalties in each of their last 12. Regardless of their opponent, the Bills have won 24 of their last 28 at home when they’ve committed fewer turnovers than their opponent. When the Patriots have committed fewer turnovers than their opponent in road games, they’ve won 40 of their last 43, including the loss last Sunday.
* - SECOND GAME OF A ROAD TRIP: Sunday’s game at Buffalo will be New England’s second straight road game, something that happens about once or twice a season to the team. The Pats were 2-0 last year and 1-0 in 2010 in the second game of a “road trip” and are 15-4 in such games since 2002, the best such record in the league in that span. The Saints (15-5) and Eagles (15-6) rank right behind the Patriots, while Detroit (2-15), Oakland (5-13) and Tampa Bay (5-13) have the worst such marks.
* – PUNTING WOES: So far in 2011, the Patriots and Zoltan Mesko are dead last in the league in punting average (35.6). There’s a lot of noise in punting average, especially related to field position, which often will require a punter to avoid long punts, thus hurting his average. But here’s a tidbit that went somewhat unnoticed in the hoopla from Sunday night: If we only consider punts where the line of scrimmage was on New England’s side of the field (i.e. more than 50 yards from pay dirt), Mesko’s 30-yard punt with two minutes left was his shortest in his two plus seasons as a member of the Patriots (101 such punts, not including the one blocked punt against the Cardinals).
Note this: The last punt by a Patriot that traveled 30 yards or less late in a close game (fourth quarter or overtime, score within a touchdown either way) was Nov. 30, 2003, in Indianapolis. On fourth-and-13 from the Patriots’ 30-yard line and New England leading 38-34, Ken Walter produced an 18-yard shank, setting up the Colts at the Pats’ 48 with 2:57 left. Indy drove to the New England 2-yard line and had first-and-goal with 40 seconds left, but the Patriots stonewalled Edgerrin James three times around a Peyton Manning incompletion to seal the win, helping propel the Patriots to a Super Bowl championship.
Note this, too: If the Patriots were to finish the season with the worst punting average in the NFL, it would be the ninth time in their 53-year history that they’ve ended up as the worst punting team in the league, more than twice as many times as any other team in the league in that span. The only teams that have finished last four times are the Jets and Bears.
* – PATRIOTS AVOIDING THREE-AND-OUTS: In their 17 games last season, the Patriots had no “three-and-out” possessions in just one of them (at Denver). Through three weeks this season, they’ve had no three-and-outs in two games (at Tennessee and last Sunday at Baltimore).
Note this: Buffalo has already gone three-and-out on 12 possessions this season, including six in Week 2 against the Chiefs.
* – GASHING RUNS: The Bills lead the league with six rushes of 20-plus yards this season (one more than the Patriots had all of last season). The Patriots defense is one of six that has yet to allow a run of 20 or more yards this season.
* – THIRD DOWN: This season, the Bills and Patriots have each converted 43 percent of their third-down tries, but the Bills have been better at setting themselves up with easier third-down opportunities as 49 percent of their tries have needed five yards or fewer (eighth-highest percentage), while only 40 percent of the Patriots have (21st).
Note this: If the Patriots can get into third-and-5 or less, they may be in great shape, as Bills opponents have converted 75 percent of those this year (highest percentage allowed in the league) and 58 percent last year (sixth-highest percentage allowed).
* – NOT CASHING IN ON GIFTS YET: Last season the Patriots scored on 21 of their 30 possessions (70 percent) after a opponent’s turnover, the third-highest percentage in the league. The Bills scored on 15-of-24 such possessions (63 percent), ranked seventh highest. This season, neither team has had much success: New England has scored on just 1-of-4 such drives and Buffalo on just 1-of-5.
* – THAT DANGED REVERSE: New England has had 15 rushing plays lose yardage this season, losing a league-high total of 50 yards through three games. That figure includes that ill-fated (ill advised?) reverse last Sunday that lost 13 yards and changed the game. It was the first time that the Patriots lost 10 or more yards on a rushing play in almost seven years. During all of last season, the Patriots lost a total of only 69 yards on negative rushes.
* – DEEP BALL SMARTS: Last season, the Patriots (Tom Brady mostly) were the only team that didn’t throw an interception all season on a deep ball (thrown 21+ yards downfield). Through the first three weeks of 2012, no picks again (nine attempts).
* – COVER THOSE PUNTS ON SUNDAY: The Bills are leading the league in punt returns by a mile so far:
29.7 – Bills
17.2 – Titans
17.0 – Jets
Note this: That average above includes an 88-yard return for a touchdown, which obviously makes a difference. But you know what? If you take the touchdown out of Buffalo’s stats, their average is still 18.0 (90 yards on five returns), and still leads the league EVEN THOUGH the Titans’ and Jets’ averages STILL include touchdown returns.
Note this too: Buffalo has led the league in punt return average only twice since 1970 and those came in 2007 and 2008.
Last thing: New England has not allowed a punt return for a touchdown since 2006. Only one team, the Jets (2003) has a longer streak without allowing a punt returner to take one to the house.
* – NFL NOTE OF INTEREST: The whispers are getting louder that the Falcons might just be the best team in the NFL. I’m not completely sold, but here is one stat that shows how dominant they’ve been: In their 12 games since their bye week last season, the Falcons have trailed in only four of them. During that same span, the Ravens and 49ers have trailed in six games, while the Panthers and Texans have trailed in seven.
Note this: The Patriots have trailed at some point in each of their last seven games and 13 of their last 14. New England trailed in only seven of the 14 games prior to this stretch, another sign that their dominance has faded to some degree.
Thanks, as always, to Pro-Football-Reference for making this type of analysis possible.
Comments? Leave ‘em here. Or shoot me a tweet (@nuggetpalooza). Have a terrific football weekend, everybody!
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