Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

Super Bowl XLIX Preview

by Aaron Schatz

If you've been reading Football Outsiders the last couple weeks, you know the drill on this one. Super Bowl XLIX is a close matchup if you look at our standard regular-season DVOA, where the Seattle Seahawks finished No. 1 and the New England Patriots No. 4. But it's really, really close if you use our weighted DVOA ratings that include playoff performance and gradually lower the weight of games from more than two months ago. In fact, it might be the closest Super Bowl matchup ever.

... but again, it's only the closest Super Bowl matchup ever if you don't consider the first few weeks of the season. This gets to what has been a running theme this year: just how much data is appropriate to judge a team, and is it really more accurate to judge a team without including its early-season games? We've written about how surprisingly, total regular-season DVOA tends to predict playoff performance better than weighted (although also regular-season only) DVOA. At the same time, you don't want to allow tiny differences in correlations to overwhelm common sense.

There's no doubt that the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are better teams now than they were in September and early October. It's not a question of just looking at the records, where the Patriots began 2-2 and the Seahawks 3-3. There are major personnel changes that help to explain the statistical improvement in the second half of the year, in particular players who either returned from injury/suspension (Jeremy Lane, Brandon Browner) or played through early injury and then improved as they got healthier (Rob Gronkowski, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor). The Seahawks offense improved when they stopped desperately trying to run the entire scheme around Percy Harvin. The Patriots offense improved when they finally installed rookie Bryan Stork at center, then again when they picked up LeGarrette Blount off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Analysis of the stat matchups in this game is made more confusing by the way those stats changed dramatically over the course of the year as the two teams improved -- or, in a handful of areas declined. The running theme of this preview is to ask "which Seahawks team are we looking at, and which Patriots team are we really looking at?"

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link. Please remember that all stats represent regular season only, except for weighted DVOA and anything else specifically noted. All game charting for these two teams is now complete; any game charting data that appears with a asterisk appears courtesy of the ESPN Stats & Information Group. This preview has two different week-to-week charts for each team, one for offense and one for defense. Because defensive DVOA is opposite of offensive DVOA, the defensive charts are flipped upside-down; thus, the higher dots still represent better games.

You also might want to read the rest of our Super Bowl XLIX content from over the last couple weeks.

All readers can click here for in-game discussion on our message boards. If you have FO Premium, you can click here to see all the matchup of DVOA splits for this game.



Seahawks on Offense
SEA OFF NE DEF
DVOA 16.7% (5) -3.4% (11)
WEI DVOA 16.0% (4) -12.4% (12)
PASS 19.6% (10) 2.0% (12)
RUSH 29.9% (1) -10.4% (14)
RED ZONE 23.2% (4) -11.4% (10)


Patriots on Offense
NE OFF SEA DEF
DVOA 13.6% (6) -16.3% (1)
WEI DVOA 21.3% (3) -25.2% (1)
PASS 35.0% (5) -9.3% (3)
RUSH -3.6% (14) -25.1% (2)
RED ZONE 5.2% (11) 10.0% (28)*


Special Teams
SEA NE
DVOA -1.7% (19) 5.5% (5)
SEA kickoff +4.5 (11) +0.5 (13)
NE kickoff -7.5 (31) +8.4 (3)
SEA punts -4.0 (21) +8.4 (5)
NE punts -2.4 (15) -0.6 (18)
FG/XP +0.8 (13) +10.8 (1)

*In keeping with the theme of these two teams transforming after the early weeks of the season, this is no longer an issue for the Seahawks, as explained further here.

WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL

Seattle is one of the few NFL offenses still based around the ground game despite the pass-heavy environment of the modern NFL. The Seahawks run more than almost any other team, and they do it with remarkable efficiency that mixes steady gains with huge game-breaking highlight runs. Seattle's run offense DVOA, which incorporates both runs by the running backs and by quarterback Russell Wilson, was the fifth highest of any team since 1989.

A quick look at New England's season-long stats suggests that the Seahawks won't find it too tough to run on the Patriots. They've been an average run defense over the course of the entire season... but this is the first of many places where one of these teams has changed dramatically since the early part of the season.

From their Week 10 bye until the end of the regular season, the Patriots had the best run defense in the league according to DVOA. There's no clear change that seems to explain such a strong turnaround. It's not really an issue of linebackers, as both Jamie Collins and Donta Hightower were playing plenty even before Jerod Mayo went out for the season in Week 6. The Pats added defensive tackle Alan Branch in Week 11, but he didn't play 40 percent of the snaps in a game until Week 16. Another rotation tackle, Sealver Siliga, returned from the IR-designated list, but not until Week 14.

Patriots Run Defense, 2014
Weeks DVOA Rk RB Yards Rk ALY Rk Stuff Power SLY OFY
Weeks 1-9 1.6% 26 4.63 25 4.43 28 11% 88% 1.33 0.54
Weeks 11-17 -28.2% 1 3.25 2 3.26 4 23% 73% 0.97 0.39
Shaded cells are stats that include all runs, while the other stats are for running backs and Wildcat plays only.

The improved run defense disappeared in the two playoff games, although that's obviously a small sample size. The Patriots allowed a combined 4.79 yards per carry and 13.7% DVOA to the Baltimore and Indianapolis running backs.

The Patriots don't allow a lot of long runs (No. 3 in the league, allowing just 0.47 Open Field Yards per carry) but they don't force a lot of short runs either. They stuff opposing running backs on just 15.7 percent of runs (28th in the NFL) while Seattle running backs are stuffed for a loss or no gain on just 17.5 percent of runs (sixth among offenses). The numbers look even worse for the Patriots in those must-convert situations. Seattle converted 81 percent of short-yardage runs, tied for the league lead, while the Patriots allowed conversions on 81 percent of these runs, the worst of any defense in the league. Like all the Pats' run defense numbers, these stats got better in the second half fo the season. The stuff percentage is particularly improved after Week 11, but the ability to stop opponents in short-yardage situations was still a problem.

Another issue is that the Seahawks run best where the Patriots' run defense is at its worst. Our ALY numbers show the Pats as strongest against runs on the left and weakest against runs up the middle or to the right. And the Seahawks running backs are strongest when running to the right, and weaker when running to the left, though they are better running "left end" than "left tackle."

There's also the type of run we're talking about here. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, the Patriots faced 38 read option plays this year, exactly the NFL average, and did allow a less-than-average 4.18 yards per carry. Cian Fahey talked about it a bit in his piece on the Patriots' linebackers last week, but 33 of those 38 plays came against two teams, the Dolphins and Jets. The Dolphins only ran one zone read in Week 1, so we're really just talking three games, plus a handful of plays by the Raiders and Bengals. There was a blown handoff by the Jets charged to Geno Smith, but only two of the other 37 plays were quarterback keepers, Ryan Tannehill runs for 15 and 6 yards in Week 15. That's 5.4 percent of the zone reads against the Pats. By comparison, Russell Wilson kept the ball on 18.8 percent of Seattle zone reads this season, not counting blown handoffs. So the Patriots' defense against the Jets and Dolphins doesn't tell us what they'll do against a better running back and a quarterback more likely to keep the ball.

Connected to the read option, in part, is the play-action game. The Seahawks used play-action on 31 percent of pass plays this year, second in the NFL, and many of those fakes were built to look like zone reads (or were actually zone reads where Wilson kept and threw instead of handing off). Seattle actually got a below-average benefit from play-action, with average yards going from 6.6 without to 7.4. That's an 0.8-yard advantage, compared to the NFL average of 1.3 yards. The Patriots faced very little play-action -- 17.7 percent of passes, 30th in the NFL -- and were average against it, allowing 7.4 yards per pass with play-action and 6.0 yards per pass without.

New England's pass defense improved at the same time the run defense did, from 10.2% DVOA in Weeks 1-9 to -8.1% DVOA after the Week 10 bye. Pass defense around the entire league improved significantly in the second half of this season, so that only took the Patriots from ranking 16th in pass defense in the first half of the year to 11th in the second half. However, there is a clear personnel change here that led to the improvement in the pass defense: the activation of Brandon Browner after an early-season suspension and a couple of games missed due to an ankle injury. More importantly, activating Browner meant the Patriots didn't need to depend on undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler or the suddenly, inexplicably terrible Alfonzo Dennard.

New England Cornerbacks, 2014
Player Charted
Targets
Yd/Pass Suc Rate Avg
Pass Dist
Darrelle Revis 72 7.1 63% 13.8
Logan Ryan 52 8.0 50% 12.2
Brandon Browner 48 7.6 56% 14.3
Kyle Arrington 40 6.6 55% 12.0
Malcolm Butler 28 9.7 54% 16.9
Alfonzo Dennard 22 11.1 36% 10.6

Darrelle Revis led the Patriots in targets mostly because Browner only played nine games, but make no mistake, he's not Revis Island anymore. He's just Revis, Very Good Cornerback. Opponents were perfectly find throwing at Revis a few times per game. His coverage stats are similar to those for Richard Sherman, with a slightly higher Success Rate but more yards allowed per pass. As you might expect, Revis moves around the field more than almost any cornerback in the league. We have him charted with 28 targets on the left side, 30 on the right. Some thought that the Patriots might revert to cornerbacks-by-sides once Browner was healthy since he had been used to always playing on one side in Seattle, but he moved around too, with 26 targets charted on the left and 18 on the right. Revis generally does cover the opponent's No. 1 receiver and I suppose that means Doug Baldwin in this game, with safety help likely rolling towards Browner covering Jermaine Kearse. Kyle Arrington is the preferred slot corner. Ryan is the utility guy, who covered for Browner early in the season, covered for Arrington late in the year, and came in when the Pats went to a four-corner, one-safety "penny" set like they did against the Colts in the AFC Championship. Butler is primarily a special teams player who will only play defense if there's an injury; Dennard lost his job early in the season and has only two charted targets after Week 7.

Seattle's passing game improved after the early part of the season, just like the New England pass defense, and again a specific personnel change is clearly part of the improvement. After Week 6, the Seahawks weren't trying to build their entire offense around 2-yard passes to Percy Harvin, and they went from 10.4% passing DVOA and 6.12 net yards per pass before the trade of Harvin to 23.8% DVOA and 6.71 net yards per pass afterwards. Harvin actually had the worst DVOA of any of the Seattle wide receivers this season.

[ad placeholder 3]

The wide receivers are not the strongest part of the Seattle offense. Doug Baldwin is very good, as noted in this piece about catch radius before the season, but he still had just 5.4% receiving DVOA. The other starting receiver, Jermaine Kearse, was just 61st in DVOA among wideouts with at least 50 passes. Paul Richardson, the only other receiver with more than 15 targets, is out with a torn ACL.

Making up for that weakness are the running backs, who are very good as receivers, as well as tight end Luke Willson, a 2013 fifth-round pick who has broken out big in the second half of the season. Since Week 10, including the postseason, Willson has 47.6% DVOA, catching 20 of 29 targets for 362 yards and three touchdowns. Willson could have a huge game because the Patriots have had major problems covering tight ends all season, ranking 30th in the NFL. Their DVOA against tight ends improved slightly in the second half of the year, but was still poor at 13.4%, and they actually allowed a higher catch rate to opposing tight ends after Week 10 (68 percent, as opposed to 63 percent before Week 10).

The Patriots are likely to use either Collins or Hightower as a spy to try to prevent Wilson scrambles, just as they did against Andrew Luck in the AFC Championship Game. They are not likely to blitz very much to try to pressure Wilson. Wilson is very good against the blitz, going from 6.7 yards per play with three or four pass rushers to 7.7 yards per play with five or more.* Meanwhile, Jacksonville was the only defense in the league to send five or more pass rushers less often than the Patriots, who blitzed 20.7 percent of pass plays. The Pats actually allowed more yards per pass blitzing (6.6) than not blitzing (6.3) and they were particularly gruesome on the rare occasion that they sent a defensive back blitz (only 5.8 percent of pass plays, but they allowed an average of 9.7 yards on those 34 plays).

One more stat I couldn't fit in elsewhere above: We've written a few times about the Seahawks' tendency to start games slow and then improve in the second half. They rank 13th on offense and seventh on defense before halftime, then lead the league in both offensive and defensive DVOA after halftime. The offense, at least, has to tangle with a Patriots defense that shows the same trend. In fact, New England's trend is more specific. The Patriots this year ranked just 30th with 11.8% defensive DVOA in the first quarter of games. Only Tampa Bay and Oakland were worse defenses for the first 15 minutes. After the first quarter, the Patriots had -8.4% DVOA, making them the league's No. 7 ranked defense from the second quarter on.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL

You may remember that our preview of the AFC Divisional matchup between Baltimore and New England pointed out that Joe Flacco seems to have his best games against the league's worst pass defenses, even after adjusting for quality of opponent. Kenneth Arthur pointed out this week in a piece over on FieldGulls.com that the opposite seems to be true for Tom Brady, at least this season. For the most part, Brady had his best games this year against the best pass defenses on the schedule. His best game by DVOA came against Chicago, ranked 29th in pass defense, but he also clobbered Buffalo (No. 1) and Cincinnati (No. 7). Not counting the Week 17 game against Buffalo, where he played only one half with a number of other starters sitting on the bench, Brady's bottom four games in unadjusted VOA all came against pass defenses ranked between No. 13 and No. 25.

This trend doesn't stick out quite as much with a larger sample, but yes, Brady really does seem to play best against his best opponents -- and his worst opponents. I took every game from the last three seasons, including the playoffs, and broke them down into four categories based on the final regular-season pass defense DVOA rank of the opponent.

Tom Brady Pass DVOA/VOA Based on Opponent Quality, 2012-2014
All Games Only Games with Gronk Active
Opponents DVOA VOA Games DVOA VOA Games
Pass Ds 1-8 31.3% 15.4% 17 46.8% 31.3% 9
Pass Ds 9-16 14.3% 11.2% 16 6.5% 3.5% 10
Pass Ds 17-24 19.6% 25.6% 16 25.4% 31.5% 12
Pass Ds 25-32 35.1% 50.4% 5 43.5% 56.0% 4

The numbers for the "Pass Ds 9-16" category actually go down with Gronk active because that includes the two worst games from early this season when Gronk wasn't yet fully healthy, against Miami and Kansas City. The "Pass Ds 1-8" category includes the Week 6 game from 2012 where Brady had 12.3% passing DVOA (which was -5.8% VOA before adjustment) against Seattle. And yes, there's a little bit of arbitary endpoint-picking going on here but I tried to make a big scatter plot and it just looked messy. So I went with the table.

Comments

277 comments, Last at 01 Feb 2015, 5:56pm

1 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

I would wager that New England's running success on the edges and not up the gut is influenced by the blocking of the tight ends, and the pseudo tight ends from their many 6-man line formations.

2 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

How did NWE rank in rushing DYAR?

They usually have a good DVOA, but they rarely rush when expected to and rush very little.

Given two teams with similar DVOA, I'm inclined to consider the team with more DYAR the better rushing team, given that suggests they are capable of rushing even when the defense expects the rush.

3 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

New England rushed very little this season, outside of games against Indianapolis. "Trusty" NFL.com gives us 1727 total reg season yards for 3.9 per carry. Ridley had century games against Minnesota and Cincinnati. Gray had some decent production on 17 carries against Chicago. They couldn't run on Buffalo the first time: 27 attempts for 50. But they hit 4.6 ypc on 25 attempts the second time. Yardage totals also suggest surprising efficiency against Green Bay, Detroit, and Miami (the second time) but they never really committed. Those don't really look like inflated totals, though I imagine DVOA would have something to say about this, because there were virtually no big plays and decent averages. Honestly, it looks like the Pats running games of several recent years, where they get decent production but hardly use it, and perhaps there's a relationship there.

276 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

It usually would give seattle the advantage but ne short passing game is similar to sea run game in that regard. T/f the more relevent comparison is both teams respective weakness seattles passing game against ne run and deep passing game which seems to also point in seattles favor unless ne can loosen sea up early

4 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

I have a feeling Aaron is hedging his bets picking Seattle. This happened last time the Pats were in the SB, all the stats were pointing to NE, yet somehow the pick was the Giants - OK it was right, but the stats said unlikely.

My view of this one is NE is designed perfectly to beat Seattle. Wilfork and Collins will make it hard to run, and are unlikely to just get run over by Beast mode. Seattle's lack of receivers will make it easy for NE to bring pressure, or bring in extra run stoppers. In the end, they SHOULD be able to force Wilson to beat them through the air, and I just don't see them having the receivers for that.

Meanwhile, NE will get their points, I suspect the injuries to Seattle will help spring open receivers/tight ends, and let the running game be a bit more effective.

Honestly, I think this is more likely an easy win for NE than a tight nail-biter.

5 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Honestly, I think this is more likely an easy win for NE than a tight nail-biter.

NOBODY has had an easy win against Seattle in the Wilson era. Nobody. Sure, the closest to an easy win was 2 weeks ago but look how that turned out.

8 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

It wasn't "easy" but Dallas dominated Seattle. OK, that was a long time ago. I can't see how GB would have lost last week with Rodgers healthy - although they did seem determined to find a way... The last game showed the weaknesses of Seattle's offense, right up until the D got tired. As I said, I think NE's D is designed perfectly for Seattle, Browner and Revis will need no help, leaving the D able to focus on Wilson and Beast Mode. And NE will not take their foot off the gas like the Pack did.

13 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

You have a strange definition of dominate, considering Dallas needed to complete a miraculous 3rd-and-20 with 5 minutes left just to keep their game-winning drive alive.

The last game showed the weaknesses of Seattle's offense, right up until the D got tired.

So the weakness of the Seattle offense is in constantly committing four turnovers, most of them completely unforced? It'd be as ridiculous to say that the Baltimore game demonstrated the weakness of the Patriots defense. You don't think that if they play that game 10 times Seattle will play better on offense for every single one of them?

And NE will not take their foot off the gas like the Pack did.

Like when Belichick knelt three times against Baltimore and almost lost that game at the end, right?

20 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Or, they could've chosen to not give Baltimore any chance whatsoever on offense by just holding onto the ball for a few extra seconds. Tell me how McCarthy neutered their offense when he had Rodgers go 5-and-out on all passes with 4:44 in the third. Or when Green Bay got a 57-yard drive on nearly all runs the very next drive, which only stalled on two incomplete Rodgers passes. And I didn't even mention that Rodgers hurt his ankle in the second half, which is an even bigger reason for running the ball. The revisionist history is astonishing.

22 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Not really. I actually didn't have much of a problem with their approach, it was the coaching from the fake FG on that I thought was an abomination. But McCarthy clearly played it close to the vest.

NE could have done outside stretch runs to run more time, but that would involve several opportunities for a turnover. Consider that the Ravens had dominated against the run and that NE had already fumbled 4 times *and* that Blount has a checked history with ball security, Bill's approach was entirely reasonable. Still not seeing the comparison, sorry.

25 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

I just don't see why Belichick has a reputation of being unconservative with regards to late-game lead-holding. I'm pretty sure they gave up a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter the last time they faced Seattle, including the infamous run-run-pass-punt on their penultimate offensive possession.

Bill's approach was entirely reasonable.

You didn't have a problem with McCarthy's approach either, so I don't know what you're even arguing.

27 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

I think I've been perfectly clear.

1) McCarthy played it close to the vest for long stretches of the game.

2) McCarthy's approach isn't comparable to a coach choosing a hail mary than play calls with an increased risk of turnover.

I never said I supported McCarthy's approach, just that it wasn't nearly as problematic as the other coaching gaffes. I'm also not sure when I said Bill has never gone into a shell at the very end of a game. You are still equating final (or hopefully final) drive conservativism with being conservative most of the game.

30 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Since you pointed out the Miami game, you should know that a Hail Mary isn't the only possibility that Baltimore had. Besides getting a great punt return, they could've also blocked the punt.

Besides, my original reply wasn't to you. I simply disagreed that NE will not take their foot off the gas like the Pack did.

40 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Dallas had almost twice the total yardage as Seattle, 23 first downs to 9 for Seattle, and held the ball for over 37 minutes. Seattle was lucky to even be in the game. It was early in the year, but truly the only reason it was close was Dallas mistakes.

51 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

And the only reason why Seattle's offense was so bad is because they kept trying to force the ball to someone who isn't even on the team anymore. That and Wagner's injury are far more important reasons why that game is useless as a point of comparison than the fact that it was early in the year.

72 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Seattle's special teams has a huge impact on that game, forcing Dallas into starting positions of 20, 20, 20, 5, 20, 27, 18, 19, 12, and 20 (there was late poss that started deep in Sea territory after a failed 4th down conversion) and blocked a punt for a TD. One of the primary reasons Dallas' yardage advantage was so large is that every drive had a long way to go. Alternatively, Seattle had drives start at the 42, Dall 14, Dall 20, and Dall 42. That skewed the yardage into making it look like a blow out when in actuality it was a close game, but one that Dallas controlled a good portion.

86 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

So, Dallas had lousy starting field position, Seattle had great starting field position, and the Seattle Special Teams were rocking, helping Seattle jump out to a 10 point lead early. And then Dallas dominated yardage, time of possession, first downs, and points. Honestly Seattle was totally outplayed in that game.

262 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Sorry but you cannot discount the special teams advantage in the game. You are acting as if that was just a random occurrence that Seattle had nothing to do with. They absolutely dominated in that phase of the game.

Yes Dallas out played them, but there is a suggestion it was a blow out due to yardage differential. I am exposing why that thinking is flawed.

263 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Not discounting the special teams. But the reality of that game was that apart from Seattle's special teams effort, Dallas looked like the much stronger team. The reason I remember that game so vividly is that it seemed like bizarro-world watching Dallas look that good in Seattle. And yes, ST is part of the game, but that's the one part I think everyone will agree NE has the advantage.

43 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

"Like when Belichick knelt three times against Baltimore and almost lost that game at the end, right?"

That's hilarious.

There's a huge, huge gap between "being forced to punt" and "giving up a TD in one play on a Hail Mary". Long passes are very low probability plays. Equating that with the need to convert an onside kick while scoring two TDs in the last two minutes and winning in overtime?

62 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Equating that with the need to convert an onside kick while scoring two TDs in the last two minutes and winning in overtime?

Um... yeah, I would. Advanced Football Analytics' Live Win Probability gave Seattle had a 2 percent chance to win after Wilson's fourth interception, and a 3 percent chance when they punted on their previous drive. Compare that with Baltimore's 8 percent chance after they got their ball back.

6 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

It seems what KC does exploits both teams' weaknesses. Seattle can be had by short, extremely accurate passing combined with great running. So can NWE.

NWE can execute the passing portion reliably, and SEA can execute the running portion reliably. Thing is, I think SEA run O vs NWE run D (strength vs weakness) is a better advantage than NWE pass O vs SEA pass D (strength vs strength).

NWE's DB talent is wasted on SEA's WRs.

What sold me on SEA's advantage on defense is the second GB game. Seattle didn't get effective pressure. Rodgers still didn't have anyone open to pass to. He had 6 seconds in a clean pocket on one play and still had to make a dump-off pass!

7 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

I got reamed for saying this a little over a month ago, but I'd still avoid reading anything into NE's performance against the Chiefs. This isn't a case of cherry picking, there are legitimate reasons to take those results - as well as the other September games - with a serious grain of salt.

11 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Yup. And Gronk wasn't GRONK! And LaFell hadn't been worked into the offense yet. And Chandler Jones was bizarrely being used as a 3-4 DE, getting pushing all over the field. And Browner was still suspended. And fatties Branch/Siliga were either on IR or unsigned. And while Mayo was around, Collins/HT weren't playing anywhere near where they are now.

In the interest of fairness, I don't really count much that KC was able to do against Seattle as being all that predictive, either. That defense is playing at another level since November.

If I were a Seattle fan, the numbers that would worry me the most are 9, 13, 10, 3, 14, 0, 10 and 0. That is the total first half points for every game they've played since the KC game. Of the four times they cracked double digits, two involved short fields after turnovers and that was with the benefit of a lot short opponent drives.

Are they just taking their time to grind opponents down? If you go to the end of the 3rd quarter, things improve to 19, 16, 24, 10, 14, 6, 10 and 7, but that is still five straight games where they only mustered two scores through the first 45 minutes. I know the defense is great, but I'm not sure that is a formula that will work against the Patriots.

As for weakness for the Pats, they are much better when they can defend out of the sub, which obviously won't be much against Seattle. I'm also still ambivalent about Blount. He's a load, but he depends on the OL to initially win more than you'd expect a 250lb guy to. If Seattle is able to get penetration, NE's running game is going nowhere.

21 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

If I were a Patriots fan, the numbers that would worry me the most are 23, 14, 13, 10, 17, 21, and 7. That is the total first half points for every opponent they've played since the Detroit game.

Looks like Seattle's weakness is New England's weakness too.

24 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

The real concern (for me) is actually buried in those numbers.

GB was held to 16 before NE allowed a ridiculous long TD on a pass that was designed to simply get into FG territory.

Miami had been held to six points before an awful offensive possession (one that would be a much better example in the above conversation than the Baltimore game ender) led to a last second TD.

Baltimore opened hot, but NE had shut them down the rest of the half before a stupid pick and another half ending TD. Indy had a similar score in both of their games. Brady can't have that kind of careless throw this week.

28 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

GB was held to 16 before NE allowed a ridiculous long TD on a pass that was designed to simply get into FG territory.

That's an interesting take on "held," considering Green Bay scored every time they touched the ball, and none of it on short fields either. In your words, I don't think New England's defensive plan was to let Green Bay march down the field on every drive and hold them off in the red zone.

one that would be a much better example in the above conversation than the Baltimore game ender

Why would three runs that took 15 seconds off the clock be a better example than three kneels that took approximately 7 seconds off? The fact that Miami got off a great punt return is an even worse reason to give Baltimore the ball back.

29 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

1) Miami was at the end of the first half, so they could have used a FG whereas Baltimore needed a TD.

2) A long punt return could very well run all the time off the clock.

3) NE was only trying to kill clock against Baltimore, whereas against Miami they still had plenty of time for a two minute drive, and even a couple TOs in their pocket.

4) The play calling against Miami was terrible - three draws! If they knew they were just going to run it, they should have at least tried plays that might actually have generated a first down.

I'm honestly befuddled why you think the amount of time the plays took off the clock is the most important part of the equation. Frankly, it probably is the *least* important factor when comparing the two.

32 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

2) A long punt return could very well run all the time off the clock.

The returner can go out of bounds or give himself up to leave time on the clock.

4) The play calling against Miami was terrible - three draws! If they knew they were just going to run it, they should have at least tried plays that might actually have generated a first down.

Which would've had a greater chance for a turnover, which you seem to emphasize for the Baltimore game.

I'm honestly befuddled why you think the amount of time the plays took off the clock is the most important part of the equation. Frankly, it probably is the *least* important factor when comparing the two.

Um, because New England could've taken off all the time on the clock against Baltimore with very little risk? Are you not seeing that possibility?

34 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

2) Of course, but then it's not that long of a punt return. Only if it goes for a TD is that really much of a concern.

4) A turnover when milking a 4 point lead at the end of the game isn't remotely the same circumstance as a turnover with an 8 point lead at half-time. Something tells me you know this.

"very little risk"? According to who? Why is the risk of a hail mary that much higher when NE had already fumbled four times, they couldn't run block and Blount has a sketchy history?

Not that I wasn't a little surprised, but you are wildly overstating the difference in win% between the two strategies, as well as ignoring game specific circumstances.

I think I've made my point well enough by this point.

36 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

And you are wildly overstating the chances that New England would fumble when not fumbling is the only thing on their minds. Most of New England's fumbles that day were on receptions, which is a completely different scenario. If they didn't trust Blount, they could've direct-snapped it to someone with good hands.

And I don't know why you give going on about the Hail Mary being the only other option. Baltimore themselves screwed up by half-heartedly trying to run it back. They could've fair-caught it, and either tried two Hail Marys, or more likely, thrown a short pass for a shorter field, which gives them more options than a Hail Mary.

112 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Actually, he's wildly overstating the chances that New England would fumble had it been the very last thing on their minds. If one thing DeflateGate has taught us, it is that New England has been deflating their balls since 2007 precisely because it means they are very unlikely to fumble.

http://www.sharpfootballanalysis.com/blog/2015/the-new-england-patriots-mysteriously-became-fumble-proof-in-2007

http://www.sharpfootballanalysis.com/blog/

131 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

http://www.advancedfootballanalytics.com/index.php/home/research/general/224-the-patriots-have-great-ball-security

FO poster Pat's reply to the proposition is most sound, when he establishes that the drop from 2007 onward is pretty much all due to Brady fumbling less frequently. I don't have any opinion as to why that is.

Burke also says the Deadspin piece stinks.

http://www.sharpfootballanalysis.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Burke-comments.png

146 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

There are lots of other reasons to realize that the the fumble article is nonsense. I posted some long-ish replies in the "Taint" thread, but the highlights are

* The distribution of for/against NE is far more random than the totals imply, and the information appears to be inaccurate.

* The lost at home is not nearly as odd when you consider that NE fumbled several times, they were just lucky enough to recover them, plus they just fumbled five times in two home playoff games.

* The "bad weather QB" results is nonsense since NE famously practices in it more than most teams, they are a gameplan team that can adapt better than most as well as the fact that they just outscored Indy 28-0 during the period we know for certain the balls were fine.

It really is just fun with numbers.

152 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

I'll grant some on this, but not all. I've seen numerous instances across the years when NE would be practicing in the snow and the opponent would move inside their practice bubble.

Obviously it is purely anecdotal, which is why I agree we can't say anything with certainty, but I've heard enough examples - and it has been so consistent with NE outdoors and the opponent inside/warm weather - that I could have come up with that hypothesis on my own even if had never been discussed in the media.

158 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Yeah, what partisans draw from anecdotes is not something that generally interests me. Like I said, I'm pretty convinced the fumbling disparity, from 2007 on, is almost all due to Brady fumbling less, and I don't have any hard information as to why that is. The first place I'd look to is sacks, and if that didn't drop significantly, I'd start looking at other factors.

163 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

It certainly changed. He went from 4-5 a year with the occasional 9-10 season to 4-5 a year with the sporadic 1.* I've heard Brady lament his early career ball security and discuss how hard he worked. I'm not sure why it appears to be so sudden, but there are reasonable explanations. The fact that he peaked in 2006 could be because they had truly abominable receivers that year and Tom had to hold onto the ball longer. Tom also seems to eat the ball more than he used to, something that Pats fans have complained about since it will sometimes happen before the pressure is really there.

Or it could be a millimeter of total squeeze-ability.

* These fumble numbers are based on his ESPN passing stats. I don't know how to interpret the rushing stat fumbles.

155 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Since the fumble stats say that NE benefits from lack of fumbles mroe than any other team in the history of the league period.

ALL teams, not most teams, are within standard deviations of fumbles per play, except NE from 2007 on.

ALL players fumble less when they leave another team and play for NE during that span. ALL players, not most players, go back to their old fumbling averages when they leave NE and play for another team.

156 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

Two things:

1) "ALL players fumble less when they leave another team and play for NE during that span. ALL players, not most players, go back to their old fumbling averages when they leave NE and play for another team."

This is literally refuted by the very link you provided.

2) Please take any further deflategate discussion to the "Taint" thread. No one is interested.

167 Re: Super Bowl XLIX Preview

I think it would be great fortune for the readership if FO actually dug into the stats and analysis and did some of their own. Not an opinion piece like "Taint" was, but an actual statistical evaluation.