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Nuggetpalooza: Statistical look at Patriots-Rams in London

10.27.12 at 8:38 am ET
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Last Sunday, the Patriots eked out a 26-23 victory in overtime against the Jets. So let’s start this week’s post with a very trivial trivia question: Since regular-season overtime was instituted in 1974, on average, how many overtime games are there each season? Answer later.

This week, it’s off to London to face the Rams at Wembley Stadium, a venue famous for soccer and, from videos I’ve seen, ridiculously well-attended rock concerts. There is little question that the  Patriots are clearly better than the Rams. But they appeared to be clearly superior to the Cardinals and Seahawks as well, and we all know how those turned out. Is this the week that New England asserts its dominance? We’ll see. To get you ready, here are some numbers that struck me.

* – The Patriots have won 14 of their last 17 games (and each of their last five) played after going into overtime in their previous game (in the same season), dating back to 1994.

* – That the Patriots lead the NFL in long drives (10 or more plays) with 19 probably doesn’t surprise you. Here’s what surprised me, however: The Rams are tied for second in long drives with 15 (tied with the Saints, Lions, and Steelers). Last year, they ranked in the middle of the pack with 25 such drives, but they averaged just 2.7 points per long drive, the lowest/worst average in the league. This year, they are averaging 3.7 points per long drive, while the Patriots are averaging 4.0. The league leader is Cleveland, which only has had FIVE such drives but are averaging 6.0 points, while Seattle (2.4) is currently last.

* – Those long drives by the Rams aren’t a product of a high third down conversion percentage, as the Rams rank just 22nd at 34.1 percent and are dead last in third-and-short situations (9-for-23, 39 percent, on third down and three yards or less). This is no different from last season, when the Rams were last in third-down conversions overall (28.1 percent) and in third-and-short (42.3 percent).

* – After forcing the Jets into two turnovers last Sunday, the Patriots have recorded a takeaway in their last 18 games, the longest current streak in the league (Cleveland has a 13-game streak and Atlanta is at 11). Since 1997, the Patriots have had only two longer streaks: 21 games in 1994-1995 and 19 games in 2001-2002. They’re a LONG way from the longest such streaks in the league over the last 20 years, though:

54 – Buccaneers, 2000-2003
37 – Eagles, 1993-1995
33 – Bears, 2000-2002
29 – Eagles, 2003-2004

Note this: The Rams defense has not forced a turnover in either of the team’s last two games.

* – The Patriots offense has not taken full advantage of all those turnovers, however, as New England has scored following just 44 percent of opponent miscues (21st), averaging 2.3 points (21st). The Rams defense has been super-stingy after the offense has committed turnovers, allowing scores just 29 percent of the time (second) and an average of 0.9 points (best in the league). That’s a 180-degree turnaround for the Rams, as they ranked dead last in the league last season, allowing 4.1 points after turnovers.

* – The Rams have gained 40 or more yards on eight different plays this season, and only one has gone for a touchdown. Only the Bengals have more plays of 40-plus yards this season (nine) and seven of those have gone for scores. The Patriots have just three such plays this season (one for a touchdown).

Note this: The Rams had only five such plays during ALL of last season.

* – The Patriots have already allowed nine touchdown passes of 20 or more yards this season, more than TWICE as many as they allowed all of last year (4).

* – New England recovered another opponent’s fumble last week (it was a fairly important one, too) raising its league-leading number to 11 on the season. The Rams defense has recovered exactly one fumble through seven games (St. Louis has forced just two total fumbles).

Note this: The Rams recovered just six fumbles last year on defense (only three teams recovered fewer) despite forcing 24 (8th MOST in the league). Their 25 percent recovery rate was the lowest in the NFL.

* – When Devin McCourty went 104 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return last Sunday, it snapped a streak of 103 consecutive kickoffs since the Patriots managed a return of more than 40 yards.

Note this: The Rams have not run a kickoff back for a touchdown since Week 5 of the 2005 season, a stretch of 115 games, the longest current drought in the league:

115 – Rams
78 – Jaguars
71 – Giants

* – Through seven weeks, the Rams offense has scored 27 times, but only 10 of those scores have been touchdowns, which works out to an 0.52 TD/FG ratio, the lowest/worst mark in the NFL:

0.52 – Rams
0.71 – Raiders
0.73 – Jaguars

Here’s the thing: New England’s defense has allowed 19 touchdowns and 10 field goals, a TD/FG ratio of 1.90, the sixth highest/worst ratio by any defense. Here are the worst three:

4.00 – Chargers
3.38 – Bills
2.86 – Colts

Note this: The Rams were terrible at turning opportunities into touchdowns last season, too, as their 0.76 ratio ranked third worst, behind only the 49ers and Chiefs.

* – Only four teams are sacking opposing quarterbacks more often than the Rams (7.8 percent) and only five offenses have had their quarterback sacked more often than the Rams (8.7 percent).

* – In the 8½ seasons since Rams running back Steven Jackson entered the league, he’s put up 15-plus carries and averaged 4.0 yards per carry or better in 51 different games, easily the most in the league in that span:

51 – Steven Jackson
44 – Adrian Peterson
42 – Frank Gore
40 – LaDainian Tomlinson

* – NFL note: If you were asked which NFL team has the most touchdown passes of 20 or more yards this season, would you have guessed the Bills (9)? They had only four such touchdown passes during all of 2011. Shoot, they had four such tosses against the Patriots on Sept. 30 alone. And if asked which team was the only one without a touchdown pass of 20-plus yards, would you have guessed Minnesota?

* – NFL note II: The Bills, who are on bye this week, lost to the Titans, 35-34, last Sunday. It was the 13th consecutive year that Buffalo has lost heading into its bye. New England is off next weekend and has won its last three prior to its bye.

* – Trivia answer: From 1974 through 2011, there were 477 regular-season overtime games, an average of 12.6 per season. So far in 2012, we’ve already had nine overtime games. The record in a single season is 25 overtime games, set in 2002. The Patriots are 18-20 all-time in overtime, losing their first 10 from 1977 to 1987.

Enjoy your football weekend!

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