With the New England Patriots’ regular season in the rearview and a first-round bye upcoming, there’s a little time to reflect. And what better way to do so than through some of the numbers that went into 2017?
Here’s a look at 13 statistical odds and ends from New England’s 13-3 year as the calendar turns to January.
1. TRIO OF BACKS WITH 200-PLUS RECEIVING YARDS
New England finished the 16-game slate with three running backs north of 200 receiving yards, as Dion Lewis collected 214, Rex Burkhead 254 and James White 429. According to Pro Football Reference, 11 teams had two backs do so: the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons.
2. THREE WITH AT LEAST FIVE RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS
A year after LeGarrette Blount set a franchise record with 18 rushing touchdowns, the Patriots gathered 16 from three running backs. Lewis reached paydirt six times on the ground, while Burkhead and Mike Gillislee both did so five times. It is the first time in the Bill Belichick era that three running backs each notched at least five rushing touchdowns in a single season.
3. TWO 1,000-YARD PASS-CATCHERS
Tight end Rob Gronkowski surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in Week 15 and wideout Brandon Cooks followed in Week 16. Two other offenses had two 1,000-yard receivers, with Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, and the Detroit Lions’ Marvin Jones and Golden Tate also doing so. For the Patriots, it’s the sixth time since the merger that the passing game has boasted a pair of 1,000-yard targets – 1979, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 being the others.
4. FOUR-TIME RECEIVING LEADER AMONG TIGHT ENDS
Though he was not turned to on Sunday, and though he missed two games, Gronkowski’s 1,084 receiving yards on the year still put him first in the league among tight ends. It’s the fourth time in the 2010 second-rounder’s career that that has been the case. Gronkowski ranked first with 1,327 in 2011, 1,124 in 2014 and 1,176 in 2015. The Chiefs’ Kelce finished second this season with 1,038.
5. THREE 1,000-YARD SEASONS BEFORE 25
Cooks, who won’t turn 25 until next September, has hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark in three consecutive years. John Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. are the other under-25 NFL wide receivers to have three 1,000-yard years since the merger. Randy Moss and now Mike Evans are the only wideouts to do so four times before becoming a quarter-century old. Evans got there for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the weekend.
6. 16 PLAYERS LOG SACKS IN 16 GAMES
Only seven defenses accrued more sacks than the Patriots’ in 2017. With four more arriving on New Year’s Eve, New England ended things with 42 in all. And those 42 sacks were made up by 16 players, including eight who weren’t on the Patriots’ roster last season in Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, David Harris, Cassius Marsh, Marquis Flowers, Eric Lee and James Harrison. Harrison’s Patriots debut saw him collect back-to-back sacks on the game’s final two plays.
7. ROOKIE D-LINEMAN ACCOUNTS FOR FIVE SACKS
Wise, a fourth-round pick last April out of Arkansas, finished his inaugural year with five sacks. The handful ties him with Derek Barnett for fifth-most among rookies, trailing just Takkarist McKinley’s six, T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett’s seven, and Carl Lawson’s 8.5 sacks. Wise recorded his first two sacks in the Patriots’ first two games of the season – something only one other rookie, Chandler Jones, has accomplished for New England post-2000.
8. SIX RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS ALLOWED
Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West, Doug Martin, Melvin Gordon, Le’Veon Bell and Cam Newton were the outliers for New England’s defensive front in 2017. Those six were the lone ball-carriers to rush for a touchdown against the unit. As noted by the Patriots’ PR department, it hits the books as the fifth time in the last 19 seasons that the defense has conceded exactly six ground scores. That is second-fewest in the club’s archives and the second-fewest in the NFL this season. The Patriots’ record-low of five was set in 1991.
9. 3,126 DEFENSIVE SNAPS IN THREE SEASONS
No player has accrued more snaps in the Patriots’ defense over the last three seasons than cornerback Malcolm Butler. The 2014 minicamp tryout has been in the secondary for 3,126 plays since the start of 2015, good for an average of 97.79 percent of the total plays. Second over that span is centerfield captain Devin McCourty, who’s been in for 2,977. The two almost-ironmen finished eight downs apart in 2017.
10. EIGHT PICKS OR LESS
Tom Brady threw only eight interceptions in 2017, and has now thrown eight or less in six of his seasons with a minimum of 12 starts. The 40-year-old Patriots quarterback threw double-digit picks from 2001 through 2006, yet last did so back in 2013.
11. SEVEN YEARS WITH AT LEAST 30 TD PASSES
Brady found Cooks and Lewis for touchdown strikes in the finale versus the New York Jets, bringing him to 32 on the season. It’s the seventh season in which Brady has notched 30 touchdown passes or more, alongside his 36 in 2015, 33 in 2014, 34 in 2012, 39 in 2011, 36 in 2010 and 50 in 2007.
12. 15 GAMES PLAYED BY UNDRAFTED TIGHT END
Wyoming product Jacob Hollister appeared in 15 games for New England this season – far and away the most appearances for any undrafted rookie Patriots tight end since the NFL and AFL became one, per Pro Football Reference. Hollister caught four passes for 42 yards, and rushed once for five yards, while also carving out a place in the kicking game.
13. 37 FIELD GOALS CONVERTED
Stephen Gostkowski hit a 21-yard field goal against New York, bringing him up to 37-of-40 on the season. The four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro’s 37 converted field goals check in as the second-most of his career after only his 38-of-41 season of 2013.