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Do the Patriots pass excessively to run up the score?

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Another Myth Busted
Patriots Don't Pass to Run Up Score

During their 9-0 run in which the New England Patriots have been abusing the NFL record book, they've oft been accused to passing excessively in "running up the score." But do the numbers support such allegations?

Let's take a look.

The following table shows the NFL teams leading the league in pass attempts. The Patriots are 5th in the league.

PR RR Team Pass Att. Rush Att. Pct. Pass Plays
1 24 Saints 355 203 62.3
2 32 Packers 308 175 63.8
3 27 Texans 308 238 56.4
4 19 Ravens 306 211 59.2
5 8 Patriots 305 287 51.5
6 29 Rams 297 190 61.0
7 28 Bengals 294 198 59.8
8 31 Saints 293 200 59.4
9 22 Jets 291 235 55.3
10 14 Eagles 287 204 58.5
? ? 2004 Colts 526 427 55.2
PR = Passing Rank; RR = Rushing Rank
? = Colts 2004 rankings not immediately available.

The Patriots pass the ball a meager 51.5 percent of the time. It's like when Brad Garrett appeared as "Tony," Jerry Seinfeld's mechanic in the Seinfeld episode "The Bottle Deposit." Tony asks Jerry if he rotates his tires.

Jerry: Well, I try to rotate the tires ..
Tony: You don't try. You do it!
Tony continues.
Tony: Did you know that 51 percent of all turns are right turns?

You're left to think: "Wow. Pretty much half of them."

Same thing here. Tony's argument is as ludicrous as the one people have been using to imply the Patriots are padding Brady's stats and running up the score -- especially when you consider that of the teams ranking in the top 10 of passing attempts, the Patriots are last among them in percentage of pass plays.

Then note that during 2004, the year the Colts ran up the score in a clear effort to help Peyton Manning break Dan Marino's single-season touchdown record, they passed the ball significantly more often (55.2 percent) than New England has this season. (But also note that the 2004 Colts would also be 10th this season, 0.1 percent after the Jets.)