Saturday, January 8, 2011

2nd Half of the Season: How Does the Patriots Defense Compare?

A lot has been said about the Patriots’ youthful defense and how much they’ve grown over the course of the season. It’s clear that this defense is different from the defense as the beginning of the season and I’ve already written about how the secondary has clearly evolved. But what about the defense as a whole? How has the defensive unit been producing and playing over the last half of the season? It seems convenient that the Browns debacle was the 8th game of the season, which set up for the Patriots 8-0 close to the year. How have the Patriots played during this period?
Here are some facts:
The Patriots are the only team to go 8-0 in the second half of the season.
Six of those victories came against teams who finished the season 4-4 or greater, meaning the Patriots had success against strong teams.
The Patriots have such a terrible “yards against” defense because they score so much- the opposing team always gets the ball back with lots of yards in front of them.
So how has the Patriots defense played as a unit in the second half of the season? You’d be surprised at how well they stack up to the rest of the league.

Patriots Defensive Rankings
Points For 299 1st
Points Against 125 3rd
Point Differential 174 1st
Passing Completions 182 26th, or 6th most completions
Passing Attempts Against 317 2nd
Completion Rate Against 57.4% 9th
Passing Yards Against 1985 28th
Yards Per Attempt 6.26 10th
Passing Touchdowns Against 12 17th
Interceptions 16 1st
Sacks 23 2nd
Rushing Attempts Against 182 5th fewest
Rushing Yards Against 787 8th
Rushing Yards Per Attempt 4.32 15th
Rushing Touchdowns Against 3 4th
Forced Turnovers 24 1st
Touchdowns Against 15 8th

The Patriots, if all of the factors are averaged out, are tied with Green Bay for the second best defense in the league. Let me repeat: The New England Patriots have had the second best defense in the league for the second half of the season. That includes games against five playoff teams: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Indianapolis Colts, the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, and the Green Bay Packers. This defense has been simply dominant.

Couple the second best defense with the best offense and the Patriots appear to be set for the playoffs. The mediocre run defense (which still ranks 9th over the last half of the season) is helped by the offense forcing opposing teams to throw the ball to keep up. The secondary edges out the New York Jets for the third best pass defense in the league (only behind the Steelers and the Packers), which says a lot of this young unit. Looking at the playoff teams, only the Seahawks and the Colts didn’t finish in the top half of the league in these rankings. Eight of the playoff teams were in the top twelve and ten were in the top fifteen. The hot defenses all belong to the best teams in the league- and the Patriots have one of the hottest.

(statistics courtesy of

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