All season, I've had the impression that the Pats are particularly susceptible to pass-catching TEs. I'd noticed it while watching games, and I had the feeling the stats weren't favourable to the Pats at all. However, it turns out that the Pats are 'only' giving up 60 yards or so to TEs most games, so I couldn't quite put a finger on why I felt Tight Ends were giving the Pats such strife, so I dug into the numbers further. It wasn't a pretty finding.
In short, the Pats are being monstered by TEs.
I'll break it down after the jump.
Week 1: Cincinnati Bengals
Jermaine Gresham - 6 receptions, 25 yards, 1 TD. Fairly pedestrian numbers, right?
His first NFL reception was a short pass on a 2nd-and-10; the drive ended in a punt. His second was equally as meaningless, another shot grab on a doomed drive.
Then, however, it got interesting. One one drive Gresham caught two passes in the Red Zone, the latter reception being his first NFL receiving TD.
Gresham again featured twice in a later drive - Palmer threw a reception to Gresham on the first play to kick-start a drive, and then threw him a later pass in the Red Zone before Benson punched it in from the one-yard mark.
Net result? 4 drives featuring TE receptions, 2 of which were for TDs. 3 of the 6 receptions were in the Red Zone, all of which were on scoring drives.
Week 2: New York Jets
Dustin Keller - 7 receptions, 115 yards, 1 TD. And it's worse than it looks.
Keller's first reception was for 13 yards on a 2nd-and-20; effectively saving the drive. Not a good thing for the Pats, considering the drive finally resulted in a TD pass to Braylon Edwards.
Keller's second and third receptions were consecutive, going for 12 yards to convert a 2nd-and-10, and 22 yards on the resulting 1st-and-10. That drive was capped off with a FG.
Keller's fourth and fifth were again consecutive, getting 7 yards on a 2nd-and-8, and then converting the 3rd down on a 39 yard(!) gain. Again, the drive resulted in a FG.
Keller's sixth was a 22 yard gain to put the Jets in Patriot territory, from which the Jets went on to score a TD.
Keller's final reception was a 3rd-and-1 on the goal-line; Keller scored the TD himself.
Net result? He had receptions in 5 drives, 3 of which went for TDs and two of which resulted in FGs. He also had four big receptions to save drives, which really explains the 100% scoring when he was successfully targeted.
Week 3: Buffalo Bills
Jonathan Stupar - 3 receptions, 27 yards.
Stupar's first reception was to start off the drive on Buffalo's 28 yard line - an 8 yard gain to set up 2nd-and-2. Buffalo converted, and later kicked a FG on the drive (throwing to a TE on first down is a common theme on scoring drives, you'll notice).
Stupar's second reception was again to start off a drive, a 15 yard reception on first down. That drive ended in a missed FG.
Stupar's final reception was a short pass in midfield on 2nd-and-10. Buffalo converted the short 3rd conversion, and went on to score a TD on the drive.
Net result? TE targeted on 3 drives, resulting in 1 TD, 1 FG, 1 missed FG. Every time Buffalo had a completion to a TE they found themselves in position to score.
Week 4: Miami Dolphins
Anthony Fasano - 5 receptions, 67 yards.
Fasano's first reception was on a 3rd-and-3. He took it a 21 yards downfield, which isn't exactly flattering.
Fasano's second reception was on a 3rd-and-5 (see that pattern again?) and he took it for 13. The 'Phins went on to score a TD off the drive.
Fasano's third reception was a 12 yard gain on 1st-and-10, and that drive resulted in the blocked FG attempt that was returned for a TD by Kyle Arrington.
Fasano's fourth was a 2nd-and-1, which he took for 10. The next play was Chung's pick-6.
His fifth was an 11 yard grab on 1st-and-10, that drive stalled with Thigpen picking out Jarrad Page in coverage.
Net result? Receptions on 5 drives, resulting in a TD, a blocked FG, and two turnovers.
Week 6 - Baltimore Ravens
Todd Heap - 3 receptions, 49 yards, 1 TD.
Heap's first reception was a stunner - a 17 yard grab on 3rd-and-9 (there's that pattern again). He saved the drive that marched into Pats territory and kicked a FG.
Heap's second catch was arguably even better - a 2nd-and-11 in NE's Red Zone, and he takes it in for a 16 yard TD.
Heap's third was again a particularly useful catch - on a 2nd-and-7 on Baltimore's 34, he snagged a 16 yard pass down the middle that converted the down and let Baltimore drive into NE territory, where they kicked a FG.
Heap was then knocked out of the game by a well placed NE tackle, and that arguably swung momentum towards the Pats - taking away the player via injury rather than good play paid dividends.
Net result? Targeted on three drives, 1 for a TD and 2 for FG. Heap saved all three drives by long conversions, meaning a direct contribution to three scores.
Week 7 - San Diego Chargers
Antonio Gates - 4 receptions, 50 yards, 1 TD.
Gates was playing hurt and the Pats were able to keep him out of the game for a significant period of time. However, when he did contribute, it was major - his first reception was a for a TD from the Patriots 4 yard line.
He was then back into action pretty quickly, netting a 26 yard reception on 1st-and-10 to get into NE's Red Zone. From there, the Chargers converted with a rushing TD to Mike Tolbert.
Gates' third and fourth receptions came in the last drive. Rivers targeted Gates on first-down to start the movement (there's that other pattern again), instantly converting 1st-and-10 with a 12 yard catch. His fourth reception came later, an 8 yard gain on 3rd-and-10 that was extremely important for putting the Chargers into FG range. However, the Chargers blew it with a penalty that pushed them back 5 yards, and the subsequent FG kick was wide right.
Net result? Featured in three drives, two of which went for TDs and one of which would have set up a game-tying FG attempt.
Week 8 - Minnesota Vikings
Visanthe Shiancoe - 4 receptions, 38 yards
Shiancoe's first grab was on the fateful drive just before half-time - he grabbed a 9 yarder on 1st-and-10 to get into New England's Red Zone. That drive ended with the stuffed 4th-and-goal attempt from 2 yards out.
His second was early in the third quarter in midfield, taking a 1st-and-10 from the Vikings side of halfway 17 yards into NE territory. That drive later turned into a Vikings FG.
Shiancoe's third was a rarity - a third-down attempt to a TE that didn't actually convert. On 3rd-and-3, Shiancoe could only manage 1 yard, and the Vikings punted.
Shiancoe's fourth was from the Vikings 43, a 1st-and-10 that he snagged for 11 yards to put the Vikings in Patriots territory again. However, a penalty snuffed it out and the Vikings were forced to gun it out with the clock running down.
Net result? Four drives, 1 for a FG, 1 that was a stuffed 4th-and-goal attempt, a punt, and one that ran out of time as the game ended.
Week 9 - Cleveland Browns
Benjamin Watson - 1 reception, 24 yards
Evan Moore - 1 reception, 17 yards
Seems pretty innocuous, but these two guys made key plays.
Watson's reception was on a 2nd-and-9 on NE's 47 yard line. He made the grab and drove it deep into NE's Orange Zone - the 23 yard line, well within FG range. That wasn't an issue, however, as the Browns punched it in for a TD.
Similarly, Moore's reception was crucial. Following the fumble on kickoff, the Browns started off with possession NE's 19 yard line. This soon became the two yard line, as Moore drove the dagger in with a 17 yard reception. The next play, the Browns were celebrating a TD.
Net result? Two drives with passes to TEs, 2 TDs, and one of the receptions was a doozy to save a 2nd-and-long and get into Pats territory.
Week 10 - Pittsburgh Steelers
Heath Miller - 5 receptions, 60 yards.
Miller's first reception continued the trend - on a 3rd-and-10, Miller salvaged the drive with a 16 yarder to the right. However, after a penalty, an incompletion and a pair of sacks, the Steelers couldn't capitalise and punted it away.
Miller's second touch was on 1st-and-10 on the Pats 29 yard line, which he drove straight into the Pats Red Zone with an 18 yard snag. A couple of incompletions later, the Steelers kicked a FG.
The Steelers started possession in the 4th quarter with a short pass to Miller to get into Patriots territory. They converted the 2nd-and-short on the way to a TD.
The Steelers started off their next possession on their 47 yard line with a 9 yard pass to Miller down the middle. In short time, this was converted into a TD to Mike Wallace.
The final pass to Miller came on the Patriots 47 yard line, an 11 yard pass on a 1st-and-10. This was on the last drive with the clock running down, and the Steelers couldn't drive it all the way into the End Zone, coming up a handful of yards and a handful of second short.
Net result? Five drives, resulting in two TDs, a FG, a punt, and a clock run-out while the Steelers were in the Patriots Red Zone.
Week 11 - Indianapolis Colts
Jacob Tamme - 7 receptions, 60 yards.
Tamme's first reception was a short pass to set up a manageable 3rd-and-6 at midfield... which Manning promptly gunned into the hands of Brandon Meriweather.
Tamme's second was more useful - he got all 7 yards on a 2nd-and-7 on the Colts 23. Two plays later, he caught a 6 yarder to turn a 2nd-and-8 into a 3rd-and-2, and he caught a third pass on the drive to convert the 3rd-and-2 with a 14 yard reception (another 3rd down conversion? Ew). A couple of Manning imcompletions and the Colts punted away.
Tamme's fifth reception gained 6 yards on a 1st-and-10 to set up a short conversion, which was dutifully taking downfield and resulted in Blair Whites first TD.
Tamme's sixth reception gained 7 yards on a 2nd-and-6, which again was trotted downfield for Blair White's second TD.
Tamme's final reception was on a 2nd-and-6 of the Colts' last possession, on which he loped upfield with for a 17 yard gain to near midfield. That drive was ended by Sanders' pick.
Net result? Gained receptions on 5 drives, 2 of which went for TDs and two of which resulted in Patriots turnovers.
What does this all mean?
TEs have been thrown to on 39 offensive drives against the Pats. 16 of these drives went for TDs. 7 more went for FGs. 2 resulted in missed FG attempts, 1 a blocked FG attempt, a further drive ended in a goal-line 4th down attempt, and two more drives ended because the clock ran out while the opposition was in the Red Zone.
39 drives where the opposition threw to TEs, 29 of them where the opposition was in a position to score at the end of the drive, resulting in 16 TDs, 7 FGs. The opposition *actually* scored on 23 drives out of 39.
And perhaps most distressing, a lot of those scores were directly the result of the success of TEs, either on 2nd-and-long, on third-down conversions, or because the TEs themselves actually scored the TD.
Also distressing is the fact that there have been 5 games this season that the opposition were in a position to score points at the end of every single drive in which they targeted TEs. That's half the season, in case you weren't looking.