Tactical Tuesday: New England Patriots Ground Attack

After dismantling the Indianapolis Colts and their rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the Jets prepare for their bi-annual showdown against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Anyone who has a pulse knows the Patriot’s offense is effective, to say the least.  The Patriots were (and currently are) ranked in the top 10 in scoring in the past eight seasons, including 2008, when Matt Cassel took over due to injury.

When tracing back memories of Brady and Co. throughout the years, it is easy to remember the 50 touchdown, eight interception, MVP season (Holy).  Or even the ultra-efficient 36 touchdown, four interception, MVP season (Moly).  There are plenty of stats and evidence demonstrating how good the Patriot’s aerial attack has been in the most recent past.

But be prepared for what you will see this coming Sunday, because it will not be what you are used to seeing.  The New England Patriots are a running football team.

Lets look at some stats.

Pass Yds/Game (Rank) Rush Yds/Game (Rank) Scoring (Rank) Rushing Attempts (Rank/Attempts) Rush Attempts/Game
2005 2nd 24th 10th 18th/439 27.4
2006 12th 12th 7th 6th/499 31.2
2007 1st 13th 1st 9th/451 28.2
2008 12th 6th 8th 4th/513 32.1
2009 3rd 12th 6th 10th/466 29.1
2010 11th 9th 1st 10th/454 28.4
2011 2nd 20th 3rd 17th/438 27.4
2012 3rd 4th 1st 1st/217 36.2

Since 2005 (arbitrary start point for anyone curious), the Patriots have ranked in the top three in the NFL in passing yards per game five times.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume 2008 would’ve been part of that list, if not for the aforementioned Brady injury.

Focus on 2009-2011.  After the Patriots dominating season, where they were defeated by a piece of gum on David Tyree’s helmet, and the Cassel season (where the high rush rank is self explanatory), the Patriots were ranked 10th, 10th and 17th.  The rush attempts per game were very average as well, averaging 28.3 per game in those three seasons.  In the most recent complete season, 2011, those numbers reached lows of 438 total rushing attempts and 27.4 rushing attempts per game.

Rex Ryan should be prepared for the run on Sunday against the Patriots.

But it seems Belichick has realized his uneven ways and is perfecting the balancing act.

Although it has only been six games, the Patriots rushing numbers have climbed to the top of the NFL ranks.  Between the combination of Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden, New England’s rushing attack ranks fourth in the league in yards per game and first in rushing attempts.  Again, it is only six games, but the Patriots are running the ball almost nine times more per game than last season.

But with the change in philosophy comes growing pains, as the Patriots awkwardly sit at the .500 mark (3-3).

In their three losses, the Patriots have had more passing attempts than rushing attempts two times—vs. Arizona and at Seattle.

The three highest rushing attempt totals for the Patriots are 34, 35 and 40.  Two of those have come after losses (35 at Tennessee Week 1).

The Patriots win when they run more than they throw (excluding Baltimore) and they usually run more after losses.  I’m no rocket scientist, but expect a heavy dose of run against the Jets on Sunday.

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