The Patriots' Real Problem
by Sean Sullivan-O'Malley
Clearly the New England offense has been much better than the defense, especially the last few years. I am not arguing the defense is not a problem and does not need to get better. It is, and it does.
However, there is an important issue with the offense people are missing. I think people give too much weighting to regular season results, and extrapolate them to all the playoff losses - ergo people around here are conditioned to think its the defenses fault but that is not always the case, especially on a relative basis versus their regular season performance and what one should expect in the playoffs.
The question of offense versus defense is a relative question as much as it is an absolute one. In the Playoffs you should be expected to be who you are. Ergo average teams should NOT be expected to be great all of the sudden. Importantly a bad to average defense should not be expected to be good all of the sudden. And a great offense should be expected to continue to be more or less great throughout the playoffs. To be fair in every single game each unit will not perform to its regular season standards, and teams who either play well on both sides of the ball or exceptionally on one side will tend to win a given game.
However, it is instructive to look at a teams performance versus what it actually is, as opposed to what one wants it to be in the future. And on that basis, I believe the Pats offense (and Tom Brady) has been the biggest relative failure in the post-season.
As a sample, let's look at what I think are their 3 biggest losses. This AFC championsip to Baltimore, last years SuperBowl, and the undefeated season Super Bowl. IN EACH OF THESE LOSSES, THE PATS DELIVERED THEIR SEASON LOW IN POINTS. YOU CAN NOT BE EXPECTED TO WIN A SUPER BOWL WHEN YOUR OFFENSE DELIVERS ITS SEASON LOW IN POINTS IN THE POST SEASON. NO DEFENSE SHOULD BE EXPECTED TO OVERCOME THAT. Below is the data.
This year the Pats averaged 35 points a game on offense, 21 points a game on defense. In the loss to the Ravens the offense scored 22 points less than regular season average (and 7 points less than its low for the season 20 against Arizona), and the defense gave up only 7 points more than regular season average (and gave up this many points or more many times). Last years Super Bowl loss the offense scored 15 points less than regular season average (its low for the season 17 to the Steelers), the defense was SLIGHTLY BETTER than their regular season average. Undefeated season Super Bowl loss offense scored 23 points less than its regular season average (and again less than its low for the season 20 to the Jets), defense again SLIGHTLY BETTER than their average.
So on a relative basis (versus how the team performed in regular season), the offense has shown the biggest change in performance. And NOT just by a little bit. This is a HUGE delta. And it has happened enough to raise some questions. And at a minimum, for their own good, its important data for the Patriots to look at and understand.
And I am not saying a good defense should not be expected to step up and win games for a team. It should. And I am not saying the Pats shouldn't try to get better on defense - clearly they should. But I am saying this offense has really sh*t the bed in the post-season, and some of these bed wettings have been so bad, they have scored so few points that it wouldn't even be reasonable to expect the defense to win some of these games for them.
So it begs the question of what has happened with the offense AND if I were them I would still be trying to understand this issue AND get better on offense as well as defense so this does NOT happen to such a degree.
Here are some hypothesis:
-Offense not as good as we all think based on regular season performance. Belichick and Brady thrive on poor teams and weak division, run up alot of points. But this offense even in regular season has exhibited a sharp falloff against good D's. This happens with all offenses, but the falloff is sharper with the Pats (hypothesis - not sure if proveable). If this is happening, its really the same issue as above in playoffs. Why?
-Brady just chokes
-The way the game is officiated and played changes drastically in the post season. Brady and this offense really designed to exploit ticky tack regular season officiating and opponents not fully prepared. Other offenses designed or have personnel that don't get affected as much by these changes or are not benefitted as much by them in regular season.
There are probably many more hypotheses about what is happening. And again I am not saying the defense is not a problem and does not need to get better. But I think people are overwhelmed by what goes on in the regular season and it biases the view of what is going wrong in the post-season -- so used to blaming the defense. Also in the post season people should not expect the defense to be stellar and win games for them if its not doing that in the regualr season. It may be this offense is not as good as people think, and needs more examination and improvement to hold up like it needs to in the post season. AND I AM NOT SAYING it should be expected to scored 30 or even 25 points a game in the post season. BUT JUST NOT 13, 17 and 14 POINTS EITHER AND IN EACH CASE THEIR LOW POINT OUTPUT FOR THE SEASON especially when it delivered historic levels of points and performance and lack of turnovers in the regular season and in these games this is when you need it most!!!
|Offense||Defense||NE Points||Opp Points||Off||Def|
|Year||Pts Game||Pts Game||Loss||Win||Delta||Delta|