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Patriots Defense Playing Tremendously, but Garbage Time Skews the Stats

Stats are for losers, but here's some context for the Patriots defensive production.

Bill Belichick doesn't give two shakes of a sweatshirt about the Patriots points against. That means nothing to him when he's evaluating the quality of the unit. He knows exactly how well the team is performing and he knows exactly when he lifts the pressure off of opposing defenses.

But points against is for the fans. It's about honor. It's about respect. It's about the Patriots defense getting the proper props it deserves in the mainstream lens and it's about showing how the Patriots are an incredibly well-rounded team.

Through seven games, the Patriots have a points against (PA) of 19.1, which is good enough for 9th in the league. If we use points allowed per drive (PAPD), the Patriots rank 8th, sandwiched between the two best teams in the NFC: the Packers and the Cardinals.

A top ten defense should generate plenty of success, but that's not what this is about. This is about how the Patriots put away the games so early that the team can just bleed out the clock for the rest of the game. The final score doesn't always represent the absolute domination of the Patriots defense.

Think of this: nearly 50% of the Patriots points allowed have come after they've clinched 99% chance of victory. That's an absurd rate.

I went through the top 12 defenses to see how the Patriots compared to the rest of the league.

G = games played; PA = total points against; GT99.0% = points against after team achieves 99.0% probability of victory; nGT99.0/G = non- 99.0% garbage time points per game

Rk Team G PA GT99.0% nGT99.0/G GT99.9% nGT99.9/G
1 Patriots 7 133 63 10.0 49 12.0
2 Packers 6 101 28 12.2 28 12.2
3 Vikings 6 102 15 14.5 15 14.5
4 Jets 6 105 14 15.2 14 15.2
5 Cardinals 7 133 28 15.0 25 15.4
6 Bengals 6 122 29 15.5 23 16.5
7 Broncos 6 102 3 16.5 3 16.5
8 Steelers 7 131 15 16.6 15 16.6
9 Panthers 6 110 26 14.0 6 17.3
10 Seahawks 7 128 3 17.9 0 18.3
11 Eagles 7 137 17 17.1 7 18.6
12 Rams 6 119 0 19.8 0 19.8

Turns out that the Patriots, with the help of their stellar offense, have been able to bury opposing teams so quickly that their non-garbage time defense ranks #1 in the entire league. This is definitely the result of statistical manipulation to prove a point, as these points allowed numbers are weighed against different amounts of playing time.

For instance, averaging 10.0 non-garbage time points per game sounds better than 11.0, but if the former team reaches garbage time at halftime, and the latter reaches midway through the fourth quarter, then the former team's success is probably more related to their offensive prowess. Still, I think there's some value to this.

When the Patriots need their defense to perform, there's no unit better in the whole league. Yes, they benefit from the fact that Tom Brady is a savant and the offense is putting up points at a pace just a hair behind the 2007 Patriots and on target with the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf attack, meaning garbage time comes much earlier.

But that's just the way the game is played- and it means that this defense can go toe-to-toe with any unit in the league and thrive.