We all need to settle down a bit.
Thursday afternoon’s pandemonium created by the news of Martellus Bennett’s return to Foxborough was understandable, sure. Marty is the man. Beloved by his teammates, media, and presumably the entirety of the Patriots’ fan base, he’s one of the most quotable, colorful personalities in football.
From a football perspective, with Chris Hogan sidelined, he provides Tom Brady with another big-bodied target in the passing game. And he comes cheap. His current 2017 cap hit with the Patriots is $723,529, which will decrease by $37,500 for each game that he is inactive. He also has no guaranteed money left on his deal after this season.
All good things.
Yet, with two weeks of stale bye week coverage following a week-eight victory over the Chargers that lacked sex appeal, criticism of the offense — particularly in the red zone — left Patriots media and fans looking for answers. So naturally, the Bennett acquisition went over like a firecracker in a pile of dry leaves.
Public reaction immediately transcended the traditional affection normally displayed for a player and personality like Marty, and began conjuring hyperbolic statements anointing the transaction as a magic elixir of sorts — one that would surely bring another Lombardi trophy to New England.
However, while the low-risk acquisition of a familiar face and another potential weapon for Brady was definitely the rightmove, it should in no way be taken as a signal that the Patriots’ offense is in need of a savior — not even in the red zone.
First, it can’t be stated enough that the Patriots have the best offense in football.
- 1st in total offense - 411.1 yards per game, while ranking just 8th in plays ran from scrimmage.
- 1st in Footballoutsiders.com Total Offensive DVOA
- 5th in yards per play.
- 7th in points per game (27.0).
- 1st in plays ran per drive (6.6)
- 1st in yards gained per drive (37.8).
- 2nd in percentage of drives ending in a score (48.3%)
- 4th in points scored per drive (2.46).
- 1st in total first downs.
- 3rd in third down conversion percentage.
- 2nd in turnover percentage
- 2nd in red zone trips per game (4.2)
- 5th in red zone touchdowns per game (2.1)
‘The Patriots red zone touchdown percentage is 50% — that’s 20th in the NFL! They’re doomed at that clip!’
- Patriots Twitter
To become wrapped up in a team’s red zone percentage is to completely discard the circumstances surrounding the team’s offensive output. In fact, there are few stats that provide less context and create more panic than red zone touchdown percentage — particularly through eight games. For example:
For those panicking about the #Patriots' red zone TD %, I give you...the Miami #Dolphins:— Brian Phillips - Pats Pulpit (@BPhillips_PP) November 9, 2017
RZ TD percentage: 66% - 3rd in NFL
RZ Trips/game: 1.9 - 32nd
RZ TD/game: 1.2 - T-24th
Total Offense ranking: 32nd
Here’s where the top ten teams in red zone touchdown percentage rank in red zone trips and touchdowns per game:
Only one team in the game is driving the football inside the opponent’s 20 yard line more than the Patriots are, and they are fifth in per-game touchdowns when they get there. Their lackluster percentage says nothing of the fact that they have throttled back the play calling on a number of trips in order to turn one-score leads into two-score leads in the second half of games.
For some added context, here’s how the Patriots have ranked in red zone trips and touchdowns per game in seasons past.
That’s right — the Patriots haven’t been ranked outside of the top three in red zone trips per game since 2005.
Coming off of the bye, the healthy members of the Patriots offense will be well-rested and ready to pick right up where they left off two weeks ago. If Martellus Bennett can add a layer to their attack, great. If not, the train will continue to roll.
Follow Brian Phillips on Twitter - @BPhillips_PP