Some old dude once said that you must know yourself in order to better yourself. While the Patriots are 9-2, there's still plenty of room for improvement. Let's take a look at some of the tendencies that the Patriots have in order to see what works well and what needs to be fixed. What can be used against the Jets and what must be limited. All these stats are accessible with ESPN. Let's begin.
Passing Tendencies + Facts
Only three games feature interceptions (yes, one of them is by Brian Hoyer)- The Ravens, The Browns and the Jets. Unsurprisingly, those are the three games where the Patriots trailed for most/all of the game.
All 5 interceptions have happened in the second half.
Tom Brady has attempted 82 passes in the first, third and fourth quarter. That's ridiculously consistent. The second quarter has Brady throwing 103 times.
The passing play on second down doesn't really change in regards to distance to first down. They'll be likely to run the same passing play on 2nd and 8 as they are on 2nd and 2. Why? If the Patriots are on 2nd and long, they want to get close to the first down and will run an 8 yard play. If the Patriots are on 2nd and 2, the opposing defense will be thinking, "Stop BenJarvus Green-Ellis", which allows Brady to surprise the defense and throw the ball behind the defense for a first down. Basically, Brady's going for 8+ yards on second down, every time.
On third down, they're going for the first down marker. They're not going deep. They're going to go for the first down marker in order to move the chains and get a fresh set of downs. The Jets can utilize this knowledge and sit a yard or two behind the first down point and stop the play from getting a first down (a la 4th and 2 with the Colts). The Patriots need to stay fresh to get first downs on third down.
Not so much a "tendency" as it is a "trend", but the Patriots surrendered 10 sacks and only scored 4 passing touchdowns in October. In November, they allowed only 4 sacks and scored 11 touchdowns. The addition of Logan Mankins and the adjustment of Deion Branch definitely had its down time- and it's absolutely improved the team.
Brady spreads the ball pretty evenly across the field- he'll throw it sideline to sideline and everywhere in between. He favors the left side (where Wes Welker usually sits), but still throws it to the right as Welker draws defenses to the left side of the field.
The Patriots are most efficient with passes shorter than 10 yards (to Welker, Danny Woodhead and Deion Branch) and with passes 20-30 yards (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez). Three interceptions were on 10-20 yard routes, which implies that the play was poorly run and/or rushed and not fully developed. This means the Patriots should always send a player 20-30 yards down field because it draws the safeties back. The Patriots should also always have an outlet receiver near Brady in case the play gets disrupted.
The passing game has been much more efficient in November. 48% of all passes were completed for a first down in October. In November, that number has increased to 69%. The offense is fully operational and is gunning for first downs. Also, this means the Patriots are looking to the passing game for first downs more than they are the running game.
Looking at first downs, 58 first downs this season have come on passes to the left side of the field. In comparison, 46 first downs have come from the right side.
Rushing Tendencies and Defense Tendencies after the jump!
Rushing Tendencies + Facts
Three of the worst offensive performances (Browns, Jets and Chargers) feature running games that did not break 100 yards. The Patriots need to gain 100 on the ground if they want any chance of beating the Jets. If they don't get 100 yards, the opposing defense will continue to drop 7 or 8 players into coverage, which will take away the underneath and over the top passes.
The Patriots have run 50 more times in the second half than in the first half (169 vs 119), which means they're running 50% more often in the second half than in the first. That's a pretty dramatic change in offensive strategy in order to run the clock. Does it work? It works in the third quarter, but teams adjust in the 4th to stop the run, when the Patriots become less effective.
First Quarter Runs: 61
Second Quarter Runs: 58
Third Quarter Runs: 67
Fourth Quarter Runs: 102
The team runs a lot more in the fourth, which has resulted in many fourth quarter offensive stalls.
The Patriots have converted 16/19 of third and fourth and short. That's a pretty impressive tally.
The team is pretty consistent while running the ball: 4 touchdowns to the left, to the middle and to the right. Also, it's pretty level (69 to 79) in terms of carries along the line.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the preferred running back on first down. They split plays on second down. Danny Woodhead is the preferred back on third down.
The Patriots are not really effective when running the ball on 3rd and long with a sub-50% conversion rate. The Jets can pretty much expect a passing play every time the Patriots are on 3rd and long.
Defense Tendencies + Facts
The pass defense has definitely improved over the course of the season. The Patriots improved 50% in terms of passes defended and interceptions from September to October, and another 50% in terms of passes defended from October to November. This is a team growing up before our eyes and they're doing a pretty good job.
In the three most difficult games for the Patriots (Ravens, Browns, Jets), the Patriots did not record an interception. The Patriots are starting to get a nose for the ball and they need to pick off Mark Sanchez a couple times in order to win the game.
Five of the team's interceptions have come in the first half. Ten have come in the second. This team is full of closers who are making the plays necessary to win games.
This is a strong first down defense, with 8 interceptions, 8 sacks (out of 20), 22 passes defended and 3 touchdowns.
The Patriots have 23 passes defended and 7 interceptions on the right side (where Devin McCourty plays) and only 9 passes defended and 3 interceptions on the left side (where Kyle Arrington plays). As much as Arrington has overacheived this season, he's still not an above average cornerback.
The forced fumbles by the defense have come on the left side, with Jermaine Cunningham.
As a result of the previous two points, opponents should throw to the left and run to the right. To compensate, the Patriots should shift safety help to the left, behind Arrington, and put the heavier run defending defensive linemen at left defensive end, to match up with the offense's right side. For example, Brandon Meriweather should help Arrington all game (or else Arrington will get the Butler treatment) and Ron Brace should take LDE. Or, even better, the Patriots could play Tully Banta-Cain and Cunningham at the OLB positions on running downs in order to have a heavier defensive front.
Numbers of Note:
Here’s the offensive touchdown total per quarter, rushing:passing scores:
First Quarter: 1 – 5; 6 touchdowns
Second Quarter: 4 – 5; 9 touchdowns
Third Quarter: 5 – 7; 12 touchdowns
Fourth Quarter: 3 – 6; 9 touchdowns
This offense gets hot in the middle of the game. They need to step on the gas early on in the day and never let up.