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Patriots Pass Defense Still Vulnerable When Not Whacking Opponents


Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin tried to heap praise per his usual on Tuesday during his press conference by claiming that the New England Patriots defense is not as bad as their 32nd ranking, especially in the passing game. Tomlin stated that it is a function of them just whacking people and being way out in front so opponents are throwing the ball every down and accumulating some yards.

Let\'s suppose that Tomlin considers a whacking being up by 14 or more points at any point in a game. Below are the quarterback passing stats against the Patriots this year that match this definition. They have given up 688 of their 1,933 passing yards allowed this year when up by 14 or more points at any point during a game. Roughly a third of all allowed. Those stats show a 64% completion ratio and an 8.0 yards per attempt.

Down 14 points or more

QUARTERBACK COMP ATT COMP % YDS YPA 1st 1st % TD INT
Philip Rivers 7 9 78% 94 10.4 6 67% 1 0
Chad Henne 14 25 56% 183 7.3 10 40% 1 1
Ryan Fitzpatrick 19 26 73% 191 7.3 9 35% 1 1
Jason Campbell 14 24 58% 200 8.3 9 38% 1 1
TOTALS 54 84 64% 668 8.0 34 40% 4 3

So what about when the Patriots are not whacking opponents? The next 3 tables show the quarterback stats based on 3 different criteria. The first shows quarterback stats of their opponent through the first 3 quarters of games when then opponent was behind by 10 points or less. By no means whacking criteria. The Patriots defense in that situation has allowed 882 of 1,933 total passing yards allowed in these situations and a 66% completion ratio along with a 8.8 yards per attempt. They allowed 3 passing touchdown and picked of 4 passes in these situations.

The second set shows when they have teams down by 7 points or less in the 4th quarter. In other words, a close game. They have allowed 250 passing yards in this situation and a 68% completion ratio on 22 attempts. These stats equate to an 11.4 yards per attempt. They have not however allowed a touchdown in this situation nor have they intercepted a pass. Most of these stats, as you can see, came against the Cowboys just recently as they struggled mightily all day inside the Patriots redzone. The Patriots bent, but did not break.

The last set shows when their opponents were down 8 or more points in the 4th quarter at any given time. I guess we could consider that a whacking area of sorts as their opponents are certainly likely to be passing more in those situations. This time you see a much lower completion ratio, but a fairly healthy 8.5 yards per attempt. The Patriots defense has given up 5 passing touchdowns in this situation while intercepting 2 passes.

What about explosive plays of 20 yards or more? Through the Patriots first 6 games they have allowed a league high 37 passing plays of 20 yards of more. You might be surprised to know that by my count, 18 of those 37 have come in the first half.

Down by 10 or less through 3
QUARTERBACK COMP ATT COMP % YDS YPA 1st 1st % TD INT
Mark Sanchez 9 16 56% 70 4.4 4 25% 1 0
Tony Romo 18 26 69% 211 8.1 9 35% 1 1
Philip Rivers 11 18 61% 196 10.9 8 44% 0 1
Chad Henne 15 20 75% 222 11.1 9 45% 1 0
Ryan Fitzpatrick 2 5 40% 39 7.8 1 20% 0 1
Jason Campbell 11 15 73% 144 9.6 6 40% 0 1
TOTALS 66 100 66% 882 8.8 37 37% 3 4
Down by 7 or less in 4th
QUARTERBACK COMP ATT COMP % YDS YPA 1st 1st % TD INT
Tony Romo 9 15 60% 106 7.1 6 40% 0 0
Philip Rivers 2 2 100% 17 8.5 1 50% 0 0
Ryan Fitzpatrick 4 5 80% 127 25.4 4 80% 0 0
TOTALS 15 22 68% 250 11.4 11 50% 0 0
Down by 8 or more in 4th
QUARTERBACK COMP ATT COMP % YDS YPA 1st 1st % TD INT
Mark Sanchez 7 10 70% 96 9.6 5 50% 1 0
Philip Rivers 8 10 80% 97 9.7 7 70% 2 0
Chad Henne 14 27 52% 183 6.8 10 37% 1 1
Jason Campbell 9 16 56% 159 9.9 6 38% 1 1
TOTALS 38 63 60% 535 8.5 28 44% 5 2

In closing, I certainly see where Tomlin as coming from with his comments about them not really being a 32nd ranked defense, but their pass defense is vulnerable at any point in a game based on these stats and what I have seen by going back and watching all 6 of their games from this season. They also do not tackle well in pass defense and have allowed a good chunk of yards after the catch. They certainly might not be the worst defense in the league, but they are certainly down near the bottom as far as pass defense goes, whacking or not whacking. This is a defense that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should be able to whack himself this Sunday.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NXON22FQSDCCSA2WHZIRTHQWTU Greig

    Good stuff. The Steelers have all the tools to take the Patriots apart, the question is whether or not they can execute. The way I see it, the key to beating the Patriots will come down to Ben and Antonio Brown being on the same page. Wallace is going is going to get his catches, but if Brown can also get in on the action, then it’s going to be a long day for the Patriots secondary.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Its not our offense Im worried about…I believe we can score some points…the question is can we stop them!!!
    Pats 34
    Steelers 20

  • Mellymorales07

    All I know is I’m coming all the way from Texas to watch these steelers whip some butt !! We need the the fans to loud and proud !! Go Steelers !! The Brady Bunch is going down !!

  • Alberto

    With Harrison & Worilds still out I don’t know if Foote and Farrior can stay with their WRs/TEs! We need to come up with alternative defensive packages to stop the assault that started that night in 2002 when the Pats call 26 consectuive pass plays!

  • John B.

    Tomlin wont underestimate anyone, thats why he says things like that. he’s not going to come out and say “um they’re the worst in the league, we’re gonna smash em, next…”

  • SteelersDepot

    Very well aware of that. Just separating perception and reality in this post not cracking on Tomlin. You are missing the aim of the post.

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