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Statistically Speaking: New England Patriots Left Defenseless

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Note: I've decided to bring up some articles from the archive, just because of their relevance. - Richard Hill

There's no question that our defense is lacking some heart. We haven't been scary on defense since 2004 and our post-season success reflects that. Defense wins championships. Looking at some basic, key stats of our defense, (just the numbers) from NFL.com, I can offer some insight into what issues needs to be pushed further. I compiled straight statistics from the past decade (2000-2009) to see where we've gone wrong- and what's been going right.

Scanning this blog in this past week, I've compiled a list of reasons, according to posters, as to why the Patriots are no longer an Elite team.

I've come up with:

Poor Defensive performance on 3rd downs

Lack of a premier sacker

Weak Secondary

Poor Rush and Pass defense

Using these proposed reasons, I have compiled a list of stats from the Patriots teams of this past Decade. After I recorded the basic stats I believe directly relate to the above issues, I ranked each team in respect to the other seasons. I came up with 26 stats and, creatively, labeled them Stats A-Z.

Let's look at our Defense.

More after the jump.

Here are some numbers to look at:

Defensive 3rd Down Conversion Rate

Stat C

Year

Defensive 3rd Down Conversion Rate

Rank

2000

43.46%

9

2001

37.21%

5

2002

42.99%

8

2003

34.47%

2

2004

38.76%

6

2005

42.01%

7

2006

35.89%

3

2007

33.69%

1

2008

44.39%

10

2009

37.11%

4

An important statistic because it shows how our defense performs on 3rd down and how it stops the opposition. Looking at the percentages, this past season ranked 4th best in the decade on 3rd downs. In fact, Pees coached 3 of our top 4 3rd down defenses. 2008 seems like the anomaly, but it appeared that the age of our defense caught up to us that year. How our defense deals with transition this next year (looking at our young defense with a new DC) will do a lot with how our team will succeed. Apart from this past season, 5/6 top 3rd down defenses have led us to at least the AFC Championship Game. That's a very high success rate.

Defensive 4th Down Conversion Rate

Stat Z

Year

4th Down Conversion D

Rank

2000

90.00%

10

2001

33.33%

3

2002

62.50%

9

2003

37.50%

5

2004

43.33%

6

2005

33.33%

3

2006

27.27%

2

2007

55.00%

8

2008

20.00%

1

2009

47.62%

7

This is wear our lack of clutch seems to have gone. Somehow, in 2008, we had our best 4th down defense. Sandwiching those years are two of our worst. What is our issue? For some unknown reason, we've been inconsistent (6th -> 3rd -> 2nd -> 8th -> 1st -> 7th) in the past couple of years. Maybe 4th down defense is such a gamble (4th and 2?) and we've lost on the gambles. I don't buy that.

Sacks +/-

Stat E

Year

Sacks +/-

Rank

2000

-19

10

2001

-5

8

2002

2

7

2003

9

5

2004

19

2

2005

5

6

2006

15

3

2007

26

1

2008

-17

9

2009

13

4

So a lot of us say we've been missing a pass rusher. This stat won't show that, as much as our next one, but I believe that this number shows the strength of our O-Line more than the weakness of our defense. However, due to our incredible O-Line performance in protecting Brady (and by "Protecting" I don't mean giving him time- I just mean keeping him off the ground. Brady hasn't had much time this season), this reflects poorly upon our defense. We don't let opposing teams sack us. Why do we only outsack the opposition by 13? We need to work on our sacking.

Players with 3+ Sacks

Stat F

Year

Players with 3+ Sacks

Rank

2000

4

6

2001

6

2

2002

5

5

2003

4

6

2004

8

1

2005

4

6

2006

6

2

2007

6

2

2008

3

10

2009

4

6

Don't put your eggs in one basket. The more players we have that present a threat on defense, the great success we'll have. Our top 4 multi-sack players seasons resulted in 3 Super Bowl appearances and 4 AFCG appearances. That means our defense is showing different, effective schemes as well as playing to a maximum number of players' strengths. The past two years have been two of the worst of the decade. Conclusion? Yes. We need better pass rush players AND play calling.

Interceptions +/-

Stat G

Year

Interception +/-

Rank

2000

-5

9

2001

7

4

2002

4

7

2003

16

1

2004

6

5

2005

-5

9

2006

10

2

2007

10

2

2008

3

8

2009

5

6

This also reflects upon how Brady has grown as a QB. However, our top 5 Interception +/- years have resulted in AFCG appearances. Meaning? Our secondary needs to step up their game. Our secondary has been so inconsistent in performance and personnel that we need to address it. Our secondary is young and inexperienced. Springs was brought in to bring experience. Bodden was a combination of both qualities. How will we fix these issues? Re-sign Bodden. Sign a new and proven CB. Allow Butler to play some extra snaps next year. Wilhite and Wheatley didn't step up this past year. We need some work.

Players with 2+ Interceptions

Stat H

Year

Players with 2+ Ints

Rank

2000

3

8

2001

7

1

2002

4

4

2003

7

1

2004

5

3

2005

3

8

2006

4

4

2007

4

4

2008

3

8

2009

4

4

Just like showing our players with 3+ sacks, players with 2+ interceptions shows a defense that pressures the opposition into throwing bad passes. It shows every player stepping up into their role and capitalizing on mistakes. Our three best years resulted in Super Bowl victories. We need a better D-Line which can push around an O-Line. We need a better LB core who can create pressure. We need a better Secondary who can capitalize on the pressure.

Turnover +/-

Stat I

Year

Turnover +/-

Rank

2000

-2

9

2001

7

5

2002

5

7

2003

17

1

2004

9

3

2005

-6

10

2006

8

4

2007

16

2

2008

1

8

2009

6

6

Our 5 best seasons result in AFCG appearances. That means limiting turnovers (No giving up possessions by forcing stupid throws to Moss when he's triple covered) and creating turnovers (More pressure!). This is an entire-team statistic. Everyone needs to do a better job of getting the ball.

Passing Yards Against

Stat P

Year

Passing Defense Yards

Rank

2000

3522

9

2001

3497

8

2002

3179

2

2003

3232

5

2004

3400

7

2005

3703

10

2006

3203

3

2007

3041

1

2008

3222

4

2009

3355

6

This has become a passing league. These numbers show that we've been doing pretty well as a passing yardage defense. However, this doesn't show quality of yardage (as in giving up 60 yards to Chad Henne late in the 4th quarter). While I don't want to call three seasons a trend, we've gotten worse the past three years. We need to improve our passing defense. However, it'll be hard to do when our rushing defense is so poor...

Rushing Yards Against

Stat Q

Year

Rushing Defense Yards

Rank

2000

1831

8

2001

1855

9

2002

2198

10

2003

1434

1

2004

1572

3

2005

1580

5

2006

1507

2

2007

1572

3

2008

1722

6

2009

1768

7

Our rushing defense hasn't looked this bad since the beginning of the decade. When our defense isn't stopping the run, our pass defense suffers. After an extremely consistent middle of the decade, our rushing defense seems to have given way. Look at the yardage- after floating around 1500 yards/against for 5 years, we spiked back up to the 1700s. That's an average of 15 yards or so more on the ground. Add the additional 20 passing yards a game and we're looking at 30+ more yards allowed per game. That's not good.

Average Pass/Attempt Against

Stat T

Year

Average/Pass Defense

Rank

2000

6.8

4

2001

6.8

4

2002

6.4

2

2003

5.6

1

2004

6.9

6

2005

7.4

10

2006

6.7

7

2007

6.4

2

2008

7.3

9

2009

7

8

This will be a finger point at our secondary. IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT. Apart from 2007, the second half of the decade (Super Bowl Victory-less half) has yielded the 4 ugliest pass defenses on the decade. Ew. It's no mistake that the Patriots made the Super Bowl in 2007 with our 2nd best pass defense/attempt of the decade. Pees's play calling has definitely resulted in playing way too safe against the pass. Playing prevent will prevent you from winning. Giving the opposition so much space and giving up the big plays have resulted in weak secondaries. The stats show that.

Average Rush/Attempt Against

Stat U

Year

Average/Rush Defense

Rank

2000

3.7

3

2001

4.3

7

2002

4.7

10

2003

3.6

1

2004

3.9

4

2005

3.6

1

2006

3.9

4

2007

4.4

8

2008

4.1

6

2009

4.4

8

Over 4.0. That's only good with GPAs- not with rush defenses. The past three years have given up 4+ yards a rush. In a league where not only passers are improving, but where rushers like MJD and Ray Rice are top notch we need to improve our rush defense. We play Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, and Shawn Greene and Thomas Jones twice a year. Each. We need to improve our run defense if we want to continue to win our division. And we need to improve it NOW.

Average Yardage/Play Against

Stat W

Year

Avg Def Yardage/Play

Rank

2000

5

3

2001

5.3

7

2002

5.2

6

2003

4.4

1

2004

5

3

2005

5.3

7

2006

5

3

2007

4.9

2

2008

5.4

9

2009

5.4

9

The two worst of the decade in the past two years. That's a result of not just one facet of the defense not working, but a product of our defense as whole not performing. I don't know what else to say- OUR DEFENSE NEEDS HELP.


Yearly Rank

Defense

Year

Rank

Season Rank

Wins

Result

2007

2.769230769

1

16

Super Bowl Loss

2003

3.076923077

2

14

Super Bowl Win

2006

3.538461538

3

12

AFCG Loss

2004

4.076923077

4

14

Super Bowl Win

2009

5.461538462

5

10

Wild Card Playoff Loss

2001

5.615384615

6

11

Super Bowl Win

2005

6.615384615

7

10

Divisional Playoff Loss

2002

6.692307692

8

9

Missed Playoffs

2008

6.769230769

9

11

Missed Playoffs

2000

8.076923077

10

5

Missed Playoffs

Just look at the numbers. Five of the best Six years resulted in an AFCG appearance. This past year was the only exception, and it averaged only .2 better per rank than our 2001 Dream Season. Our worst three defensive seasons, according to these basic statistics, resulted in missing the playoffs. There doesn't appear to be a trend- only inconsistencies. That in itself is a negative. We want our defense to be consistent. Our offense is consistent. Our defense has not been and that is why I believe we haven't been doing well.

Overall Rank

Overall

Year

Rank

Season Rank

Wins

Result

2007

2.44

1

16

Super Bowl Loss

2004

3.96

2

14

Super Bowl Win

2006

4.08

3

12

AFCG Loss

2003

4.32

4

14

Super Bowl Win

2009

4.44

5

10

Wild Card Playoff Loss

2008

5.08

6

11

Missed Playoffs

2005

6.12

7

10

Divisional Playoff Loss

2002

6.16

8

9

Missed Playoffs

2001

6.32

9

11

Super Bowl Win

2000

7.52

10

5

Missed Playoffs

These are rankings combining our offense and defense. I believe that the defensive rankings show more consistencies in the overall team performance.

Additional Statistic: Passing Play vs Rushing Play Offensive Ratio

Stat D

Year

Pass:Rush

Balanced Rank

Result

2000

1.33

9

Missed Playoffs

2001

1.02

1

Super Bowl Win

2002

1.54

10

Missed Playoffs

2003

1.14

5

Super Bowl Win

2004

0.93

4

Super Bowl Win

2005

1.28

7

Divisional Playoff Loss

2006

1.06

3

AFCG Loss

2007

1.3

8

Super Bowl Loss

2008

1.04

2

Missed Playoffs

2009

1.27

6

Wild Card Playoff Loss

What does this show? That there isn't much weight in the argument of passing the ball too much. Our pass to rush ratio doesn't reflect anything upon our success on the season. HOWEVER, I DO believe that our PLAY CALLING of pass or rush definitely reflects upon our success. Do we run on what should be a passing play, or vice versa (3rd and 2?). We have had a fairly balanced play calling. Perhaps our rushing personnel aren't doing enough with their carries to warrant more consideration on plays.

Conclusion

I believe that our defense is the reason for our Super Bowl-less woes. We need to find consistency on defense, we need to find playmakers and we need to find new schemes and ideas that will capitalize on their skill sets. We've been trying for this entire second half of the decade to plug players into positions that were defined by other players and trying to perform like the players did not change. That's not a good plan. The Patriots pride themselves in placing no individual over the team. However, sometimes players are worth a lot to the team. The worth of the players that have left- from Seymour to Vrabel to Bruschi to Harrison to Branch to Samuel to Weis to Crennel to Mangini to McDaniel and others- has definitely been reflected in this team's performance in the second half of the decade.

Click here to read my Offensive analysis!

Thanks for reading!