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Nuggetpalooza: Interesting stats behind an interesting Patriots vs. Seahawks tilt!

10.12.12 at 10:55 am ET
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The Patriots, now 3-2 and seemingly hitting their stride, head to the Pacific Northwest to face the somewhat-surprising Seahawks. Playing in Seattle, against the “12th man” and the deafening noise level, is a challenge, to put it mildly. It should be fascinating to see how the fast-paced New England offense handles it. Here are some numbers that I found interesting within this weekend’s matchup:

* – New England has scored 30 or more points in its last seven and 14 of its last 15 road games. Seven straight road games with 30-plus points ties the club record and is one away from the longest such streak since 1970 (eight by the 1999-2000 Rams). Only one other team, the 1984 Niners, has even reached six such road games in a row. Seattle might be a tough opponent to extend the streak against as the Seahawks have allowed 30 or more points only twice in their last 11 home games (none in their last seven). But the Patriots are a different animal. Prior to New England hanging 30 on them a few weeks ago, the Ravens had allowed 30-plus points at home just once in their previous 34 games.

* – Two NFL teams have yet to allow a first-quarter touchdown this season: The Patriots and the Seahawks. It’s the first time that Seattle has gone five straight games without allowing a touchdown in the first period since the 2005-06 season, when they put up a 12-game streak. The Patriots’ last such streak of five games or more came during the final five weeks of the 2010 season. The longest streaks without allowing a first-quarter touchdown since 1997:

19 – Steelers (1998-1999)
15 – Dolphins (2002-2003)
15 – Giants (2002)

Note this: The longest such streak since 1997 by the Patriots was 11 games (2000-2001). Also, an interesting note about that 15-game streak by the Giants in 2002 is that they didn’t allow a score in the opening period over their first 15 games before letting down in the 16th and final game of the season. The next week, they allowed another first quarter score to the 49ers en route to a 39-38 loss in the wild card game.

* – The Patriots set a club record with 35 first downs last week, marking the third straight week that they’ve moved the chains 33 or more times. It’s not only the longest streak of 33-plus first downs since the league has tracked the stat, but it’s the first time that any team has done it three times in any single season.

Note this: The Broncos and Buccaneers were the only teams that entered the 2012 season having not allowed more than 30 first downs in any game since 1991. The Bucs had their 337-game streak snapped against the Giants (31 first downs) on Sept. 16. Denver’s streak (340 games) was obliterated last weekend in Foxboro. The five longest current streaks without allowing 31-plus first downs belong to:

293 – Eagles
266 – Saints
233 – Patriots
190 – Dolphins
165 – Steelers
154 – Seahawks

Can the Pats snap the sixth-longest such streak in the league in Seattle this weekend?

* – Masters of the long drive: I know it seems like I remind you nearly every week how the Patriots rank at or near the top of the league in drives lasting 10 or more plays (they’re actually tied with the Saints for first place with 14 such drives). But here’s this week’s nuance: The Seahawks have allowed 12 such drives this season, tied for the second most in the league. What’s more, their opponents have had 41 possessions that lasted FEWER than 10 plays and they’ve scored on just three of those (7 percent), which is the lowest percentage in the league:

7 percent – Seahawks
10 percent – Bears
11 percent – 49ers

There seems to be something to this, because the Seahawks ranked third last season (20 percent), behind two stalwart defenses, Pittsburgh (15 percent) and San Francisco (19 percent).

Note this: The Patriots have scored on 79 percent of their drives of 10 or more plays (19th) and averaged 4.0 points on those drives (12th), while they’ve scored on 39 percent of their drives of fewer than 10 plays (4th), averaging 3.1 points (2nd, trailing Atlanta).

* – Remember last week when the Broncos came in having forced the most three-and-outs in the league and the Patriots went three-and-out only once? Well, the new leader is Seattle, which has forced 18 three-and-outs, comprising 34 percent of opponent possessions:

34 percent – Seahawks
31 percent – Cowboys
29 percent – Broncos

* – Third-and-long: Loosely related to the three-and-out stat above is the fact that the Seahawks defense has done a great job of forcing opposing offenses into third-and-long situations this season, as 67.7 percent of opponent third-down plays have needed six or more yards in order to convert. That’s the second-highest percentage in the league:

72.0 percent – Buccaneers
67.7 percent – Seahawks
65.6 percent – Bills

Problem is, Seattle has allowed opponents to convert 38 percent of those tries, which is the fifth-highest/worst mark in the league, worse than only Oakland (44 percent), last week’s foe Denver (42 percent), your New England Patriots (42 percent), and the Jets (41 percent). Seattle also has allowed a league-high 10 successful conversions on third-and-10-plus already, one more than they allowed during all of the 2011 season.

Note this: The Patriots converted a third-and-14 and a third-and-17 last Sunday against Denver, just the second time since 2000 that they’ve converted multiple third-and-14-plus situations into first downs without benefit of a flag in a single game. The other was Dec. 14, 2003, against the Jaguars.

* – While the Patriots have allowed the most pass plays of 20 or more yards this season (27), the Seahawks offense has produced the fewest, with just eight such completions.

* – Seattle leads the league in kickoff returns, averaging 31.2 yards per return, and has three returns of 40 or more yards. The Patriots average 20.0 yards per return (29th) and have yet to return one more than 28 yards. As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the last Patriots kickoff return of 40 or more yards was 97 kickoffs ago when Dan Connolly went 71 yards against the Packers on Dec. 19, 2010.

* – Tom Brady came into last week’s game ranked eighth in passing accuracy this season, as 112 of his 154 throws were considered “catchable” (72.7 percent). Last week against the Broncos, he was accurate on 23-of-31 (77.4 percent), the highest percentage in the league last week.

* – The Patriots’ average starting field position this season has been the 30-yard-line, ranked sixth in the league. However, the Seahawks are the league leaders, starting their average drive at the 31.5-yard line. The Seahawks also rank fourth in opponent average starting position (24-yard line), while the Patriots are sixth (25.3). If you think about this stat, if a team starts its average drive farther from its goal line, there is a much better chance of pinning the opponent closer to its own.

* – New England’s offense has been in a league-high 15 goal-to-go situations this season and scored 12 touchdowns off those drives (also league high). The Pats led the league in both last year as well with 41 goal-to-go drives that yielded 31 touchdowns. Seattle’s offense has had three goal-to-go drives this year and managed just one touchdown.

* – No gift points: Since allowing four return touchdowns in 2009 (an interception, two fumble returns, and a blocked punt return), the Patriots have allowed only two such touchdowns in over two-and-a-quarter seasons since (a kickoff return in 2010 and an interception return last year), easily the fewest in the league in that span:

2 – Patriots
4 – Steelers
4 – Packers
4 – 49ers

The Seahawks have allowed nine such touchdowns in the last two-plus seasons, while the Lions have allowed a whopping 16, the most in the NFL in that span.

* – While Seattle has scored on its first possession three times in five games (a touchdown and two field goals) and missed a field goal try in another, the Seahawks have not been effective on their first possession of the second half, as they’re the only team in the league without such a point through five weeks, committing turnovers on three of those five possessions. This is a complete turnaround from last year’s Seahawks, who scored 48 points on their opening possessions of the second half (tied for fifth with New England) while never committing a turnover.

* – NFL note: The Chiefs have committed three or more turnovers in all five games this season. The longest such streak since 1990 in the NFL is nine consecutive games, by your New England Patriots, who coughed it up three or more times in each of the last four games of the 1991 season and first five of 1992. That was part of a truly dismal 26-game stretch when the Pats committed 78 turnovers (an average of three per game) while losing 21 of those 26. How good does a Patriots fan have it right now? The Pats have just 22 turnovers while they’ve WON 21 of their last 26.

Enjoy your football weekend!

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