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

Philip Rivers7978%9410.4667%10
Chad Henne142556%1837.31040%11
Ryan Fitzpatrick192673%1917.3935%11
Jason Campbell142458%2008.3938%11

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
Mark Sanchez91656%704.4425%10
Tony Romo182669%2118.1935%11
Philip Rivers111861%19610.9844%01
Chad Henne152075%22211.1945%10
Ryan Fitzpatrick2540%397.8120%01
Jason Campbell111573%1449.6640%01
Down by 7 or less in 4th
Tony Romo91560%1067.1640%00
Philip Rivers22100%178.5150%00
Ryan Fitzpatrick4580%12725.4480%00
Down by 8 or more in 4th
Mark Sanchez71070%969.6550%10
Philip Rivers81080%979.7770%20
Chad Henne142752%1836.81037%11
Jason Campbell91656%1599.9638%11

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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