BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL season is three weeks old, and while it’s true that it’s only September and teams are still discovering their own identities, the fact remains that nearly 20 percent of the season has already passed.
Given that teams are now nearly one-fifth of the way through their schedules, it’s a good time to take a look at the Patriots’ statistics to see where they stack up to the rest of the NFL.READ MORE: 3 Captured After Stolen Car Filled With Stolen Packages Crashes In Holbrook
Bill Belichick may believe that stats are for losers, but the numbers thus far paint a picture that confirms the eyeball test: The defense has played great, and the offense has been far from it.
In terms of total yards, the Patriots’ offense ranks 26th out of 32 teams with 301.3 yards per game. That’s better than Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Oakland. It’s noteworthy that the Patriots are well behind the 25th-ranked Giants, who have gained 319 yards per game, so New England has a long way to go in terms of gaining ground on the rest of the league. An average of 350 yards per game would be middle-of-the-pack.
In the past 10 years, the offense has never ranked worse than 11th, with an average ranking of fifth. (If you’re into strange places to find optimism, there’s this: The Patriots ranked 19th in total offense in 2001 and 17th in 2003, so perhaps the Patriots are just reverting back to the dynamic of the early part of their dynasty? OK, probably not.)
The passing offense ranks 27th in the NFL with 196.3 yards per game and 30th in yards per passing attempt (5.5). They’re tied for last with just three touchdowns through the air, and they’ve allowed seven sacks — eighth-most in the league.
The rushing offense ranks 22nd in the league with 105 yards per game.
And in terms of points, the Patriots rank 14th with 22 per game.
The defense has certainly carried the Patriots to two consecutive victories, and the numbers back up that statement.
The Patriots rank third in the NFL in yards allowed (272.7 yards per game), trailing only the Jets (268.3) and Lions (244.3). In the past four years, the Patriots have ranked 25th, 31st, 25th and 26th in total defense, so while there’s a lot of football left to play this season, that spot among the top three in the league is a sight for many sore eyes in New England.
That’s largely thanks to the pass defense, which ranks No. 1 in the NFL, having allowed just 168.7 yards per game. Considering New England finished 18th in that category last year, 29th in 2012, 31st in 2011 and 30th in 2010, that too is a much-needed improvement.
The Patriots are also tied for the league lead with six interceptions, and they rank third in yards allowed per passing attempt at 4.96. They are tied for 11th in the league with seven sacks — the Jets, Redskins and Jaguars lead the way in that department with 10.
However, for as much as the No. 1 ranking in pass defense and the No. 3 ranking in total defense are positive signs, it must be noted that the Patriots have only faced the Dolphins, Vikings and Raiders, who are the 22nd, 29th and 32nd-ranked total offenses, respectively. Ryan Tannehill ranks 29th in passer rating, Matt Cassel ranks 32nd, and Derek Carr ranks 28th. It is true that the Patriots’ success against those three quarterbacks’ offenses helped keep them at the bottom of the league, but it’s important to note that the Patriots have not even come close to facing a high-powered offense yet.
In the ground game, the Patriots have been OK, allowing 104 rush yards per game (11th in NFL), and in all, they’ve allowed 16.3 points per game, tied for the fourth-best such mark in the league.
The quarterback has been decidedly un-Brady-like through three games. He’s currently on pace to throw for 3,370 yards and 16 touchdowns, both of which would be by far the lowest full-season totals of his career (3,529 yards in 2006; 23 TDs in 2003). He’s completing 58.3 percent of his passes, well below his career 63.4 percentage and lower than last year’s 60.5 percent completion rate.
Brady ranks 24th in passing yards, trailing the likes of Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he ranks 30th with just 5.54 yards per attempt, ahead of only Carr and Tannehill. He is tied for 18th with three touchdown passes, and he’s been sacked seven times, sixth-most in the league.READ MORE: Four Revolution Players Named To MLS' 2021 Best XI
On the positive side, he has thrown zero interceptions, and he has a much higher attempt total (114) than any other passer with no picks. Derek Anderson (40 pass attempts) and Carson Palmer (37) are the closest QBs in that group in terms of attempts.
The running back ranks 16th in rushing yards with 176, but he ranks 35th in yards per attempt at 3.4. He’s tied for 16th in the league with one rushing touchdown.
Brady’s most consistent target, Edelman ranks eighth in the NFL in receiving yards (260) and is tied for fifth with 22 receptions. He’s also tied for eighth in the league with 13 receptions that created first downs.
The Patriots’ perennial tackle leader is off to his normal start, recording 30 tackles (18 solo, 12 assists), which has him tied for sixth in the NFL in total tackles .
Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower
The third-year players are tied for 16th in the NFL with two sacks apiece.
The kicker ranks tied for third with eight successful field goals, and he’s a perfect 100 percent on the young season.
When looking at the vast gap between the defensive rankings, it’s clear that the Patriots are 2-1 almost entirely because their defense has successfully answered the bell thus far. Of course, with some much more potent offenses on the horizon (Cincinnati in Week 5, Denver in Week 9, Indianapolis in Week 11), the challenge will become much more difficult as the season progresses. But so far, there shouldn’t be any complaints about the defense.
And offensively, there’s nowhere for that unit to go but up. The offensive line play is something that doesn’t show up directly in the stats, but the shaky play in front of Brady has been the main culprit for the offense’s inability to establish any shred of consistency. The first step to fixing that issue will likely be the insertion of Bryan Stork for Jordan Devey, and the eventual return of the injured Ryan Wendell should help as well. On the oustide, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer need to be a bit better, but overall it is not a unit that is beyond repair.
When looking solely at the stats, some will say that Brady is doomed, that his decline has been rapid and that he’s simply not good anymore. Such statements will be extremely overblown, as there’s not a pocket quarterback alive who could succeed behind that offensive line at the moment. Brady has missed a handful of passes this season, but he’s also delivered some beauties (the 44-yarder to Edelman in Miami stands out), and while he’ll never again be 2007 Brady, it’s a safe bet that his numbers will improve greatly as the year goes on.
Defensively, there is reason to believe improvements could still be made, as Brandon Browner is due to return from his suspension after Week 4, and Alfonzo Dennard’s injury shouldn’t keep him out for too long.
On the whole, it’s really a complete flip of the past decade, when on average the Patriots had the fifth-best offense and the 17th-best defense. So long as the offense can make major strides forward — and quickly — the Patriots may very well achieve that which has been sorely lacking in recent years: balance. The defense is doing its part, and the team could do worse than having Tom Brady to rely on to guide the offense back to respectable levels.Eddie Mekka, 'Laverne & Shirley' Actor And Worcester Native, Dies At 69
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