Pats Looking Good For Second Half
Sunday, November 04, 2012
Eight down, eight to go.
The New England Patriots are midway through the 2012 NFL season and, despite their (5-3) record, there is a lot to be optimistic about.
It is true that the team had trouble protecting 4th quarter leads and winning close games in the first half of the season, but there are signs that this team is improving as they get set to play these important November and December games.
In their final game before the bye week in London, New England dismantled the St. Louis Rams 45-7 in what was their most complete game of the season.
Offensively, they did what they pretty much have done to every team this year racking up nearly 500 yards of total offense while demonstrating the ability to both run and pass the football.
But it was what they did on defense that should make Pats fans feel a little bit better about what is to come.
New England sacked Rams quarterback Sam Bradford twice, intercepted him once and intercepted back-up Kellen Clemens once.
Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia also seemed to dial up a few more blitzes against the Rams. Is a more aggressive style something we can look forward to in the final 8 weeks of the season? Hopefully. Even if that’s not the case, things may be okay.
A look at the first half numbers for the Patriots defense shows that this unit is not as bad as many of us believe that they are.
While the Pats ranks 26th out of 32 NFL in total defense, that is not the most important stat. Scoring defense is. And, through 8 games, the Pats rank 12th in the league giving up 21.25 points per game.
In addition, New England’s run defense ranks 9th in the league giving up a mere 88 yards per game mere 3.5 yards per carry to their opponents which is the best in the entire league.
There is also another stat that the Patriots ranked first in after 8 weeks and it’s one of the most influential statistics in the game. The Pats +13 turnover differential tied them with the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.
This isn’t to say that the Patriots defense doesn’t have its issues. They’re 19th in red zone defense, 24th in third down defense, 30th in pass defense and dead last in yielding completions of more than 20 yards to the opposition.
Those subpar numbers are the reason the team acquired cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay prior to the trading deadline. In theory, once Talib’s 4-game suspension is over with next week, he should help improve the Pats’ pass defense.
Offensively, the Pats continue to be the gold standard in almost every offensive category. They’re first in point scored (32.8) and first in total offense (440.8 yards). But, the most telling stat may be their much-improved running game.
New England has the fifth best rushing attack in the league averaging 149.6 yards per game. That total is, by far, the highest per game average of any Patriots team coached by Bill Belichick. In case you’re wondering, the 2004 Patriots with Corey Dillon (1,635 yards) averaged 133.4 yards per game on the ground.
This balance should help take some pressure off of Tom Brady and the passing game come playoff time.
Let’s also remember that since Bill Belichick arrived in New England 12 years ago, this franchise has played some of its best football when the weather gets cold.
Belichick is 43-7 (.860) in December as Patriots head coach, 41-5 since 2001. The Patriots are also 20-1 at Gillette Stadium in the month of December. They will play 3 games at the Razor this year in that final month.
Yes, there were some moments of angst in the first half of the season, but the smart money is on a strong second half of the season for the Patriots which begins next Sunday at home against Buffalo.