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Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs. 49ers statistical preview!

12.15.12 at 10:30 am ET

The red hot Patriots face the 49ers in another terrific matchup Sunday night in Foxboro. To get you ready to be the smartest fan in the room tomorrow, here are some stats that jumped out at me:

* – San Francisco has taken over both sides of the ground game right away in games this season as they have rushed for 551 yards and a 5.92-yard average in the first quarter, both league highs. On defense, opponents have managed just 255 first quarter rushing yards and a 3.23-yard average, both the lowest/best mark in the league.

Note this: That’s kinda what the Patriots have done, except they’ve dominated both sides of the rushing game in the THIRD quarter instead of the first. In the third period, the Pats have rushed for 604 yards (only Washington, with 676, has more) and averaged 5.1 yards-per-carry (7th). On defense in the third quarter, opponents have just 167 rushing yards and a 2.74-yard average, both are the lowest/best marks in the league.

* – The Patriots have forced 27 fumbles this season, which not only leads the league but is already the third-most in the 19 seasons that they’ve tracked the stat. Only the 2010 Giants (30) and the 1999 Eagles (28) had more forced fumbles. And there are still three games to go.

* – Over the first eight weeks of the season, the Patriots allowed 10 touchdowns on passes or runs of 20 yards or more, the most in the league in that span. In the six weeks since then, they’ve allowed only one such touchdown (a 43-yarder on 11/18 against the Colts), tied for the FEWEST in the league (with the 49ers and Bills) in that span.

* – The Patriots have scored 15 touchdowns on drives started inside their own 20-yard-line this season, by far the most in the league (Seattle ranks second with 10). They’ve averaged 2.98 points on those possessions, also the highest in the league, with the 49ers ranked second at 1.97. The Patriots’ average is the highest since they began tracking the stat in 1995:

3.57 – Patriots, 2007
3.30 – Saints, 2011
2.98 – Patriots, 2012
2.51 – Chiefs, 2004

Note this: The Patriots’ defense has allowed an average of 2.00 points per possession when their opponent has started a drive 80 or more yards from pay dirt, the second highest/worst average in the league. Only the Saints (2.91), have been worse this year. The Pats’ have been better in this area than they were last season, when they allowed an average of 2.78 points per such possession, which is the highest full season average allowed in the NFL since 1995:

2.78 – Patriots, 2011
2.60 – Chiefs, 2008
2.25 – Bears, 2000
2.18 – Rams, 2009

* – The 49ers have rushed 40 times for 314 yards in the 4th quarter of close games this season (i.e. the score is within seven points either way). That’s an average of 7.9 yards per carry and is on track to be the highest such average for any team in the 21 seasons that they’ve tracked the stat:

7.9 – 49ers, 2012
7.7 – Colts, 2001
6.9 – 49ers, 1999
6.9 – Rams, 1999

Note this: New England has allowed only 3.2 yards on such rushes this season, albeit on just 24 opponent carries. None of those carries have come in the last four weeks, the only such team in the NFL in that span.

* – The Patriots have completed 80 third down passes this season and 64 of those have converted a first down (80%), the third highest percentage in the league, trailing only the Saints (84%) and the Colts (83%). Only 62% of the 49ers third down completions have moved the chains, which ranks 23rd this season. Not many things in football “grinds my gears” more than third down passes short of the sticks.

* – If the Patriots allow a rushing touchdown to the 49ers on Sunday night, it would be the sixth straight game in which they’ve allowed a rushing touchdown and would be their longest such streak since 2001. Back in 1996-1997, the Patriots allowed a rushing touchdown in 11 consecutive games.

* – Despite 88 fewer passing attempts (129 to 217), 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick already has more pass plays of 30 or more yards under his belt (7) than Alex Smith has this season (6). All told, the 49ers’ 13 such pass plays this season is the same number as the Patriots have.

Note this: San Francisco’s defense has allowed an NFL-low eight pass plays of 30 or more yards this season while the Patriots have allowed 19.

* – San Francisco running back Frank Gore is averaging only 3.45 yards per rush on 35 carries in his two December games this season. Compare that to his 5.16 yard average on 177 carries in September, October, and November.

* – The Patriots’ Stevan Ridley has gained yardage on seven of his eight tries on third or fourth and one this season, the second highest percentage in the league (min. eight such tries):

94% – BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals (15-of-16)
87% – Stevan Ridley, Patriots (7-of-8)
82% – Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (9-of-11)

The lowest percentage of carries gaining yards in those situations (same minimum):

25% – Trent Richardson, Browns (2-of-8)
44% – Frank Gore, 49ers (4-of-9)
50% – Doug Martin, Buccaneers (5-of-10)

* – The 49ers have been flagged for delay of game six times this season, tied (with five other teams) for the most in the league. The Patriots, Lions, and Redskins are the only teams that have not been penalized for delay this year.

Note this: Only the Lions (468) have been penalized more yards on defense than the Patriots (398) this year. 40% (19-of-48) of scoring drives against the Patriots this year have included at least one first down via penalty, That would be their highest such percentage since they began tracking the stat in 1995.

* – New England already has 20 rushing touchdowns and 29 receiving touchdowns this season, becoming just the third Patriots team (2006, 2008) since the merger to put up 20 or more of each in a season. With their next receiving touchdown, they will become the first Patriots team and just the 15th in the NFL since 1970 to have a 20/30 season.

* – The Patriots and 49ers have each returned 16 punts for 10 or more yards this season, tied for sixth most in the NFL. Thing is, since the first of November, the Patriots have ALLOWED only one such punt return (exactly 10 yards last Monday against Houston), tied for the fewest in the league in that span, while San Francisco has allowed five.

Thanks, Pro-Football-Reference!

Enjoy the game and let’s talk football on twitter (@nuggetpalooza).



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