Checking the Numbers: Bills-Patriots Game

(Elsa/Getty) Tom Brady leads the Patriots back to beat the Bills with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes.

(Elsa/Getty) Tom Brady leads the Patriots back to beat the Bills with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes.

On Monday night, the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills matched up for a game expected to be an easy win for the Pats. Surprisingly, the Bills held an 11 point lead late in the game, but some Tom Brady heroics combined with an untimely fumble on a kick return did in the Bills for a 12th straight time against New England. There are plenty of recaps out there reviewing the game, but here I wanted to look at this game from my own analytical perspective.

In this post, I took the box score stats from the game and compared how each team did against their season averages from the 2008 season. If it were later in the year, I would compare them against each team’s average so far in the 2009 season. But, since the previous season usually serves as the baseline for predictions going into a new year, I think that analyzing against the previous season’s numbers is perfectly acceptable. Perhaps after week 6 or 7 (maybe 8), I will begin using current season averages as the basis for comparison.

So, anyway, on to the numbers! (Box Scores taken from Yahoo! Sports and 2008 averages from Pro-Football-Reference.com) Below, I have four tables.

Bills’ Offensive Boxscore vs. Bills’ 2008 Offensive Averages

The first table is a comparison of Buffalo’s offensive numbers from this game with their average numbers from the 2008 season. This gives an indication as to how well the Patriots’ defense performed in this game because it shows whether the Bills’ offensive numbers were above or below their 2008 averages.

Team Statistics Patriots’ Def vs. Bills’ Off
  BUF BUFAvgOff % Difference
  First Downs 17 17.94 -5.23%
    Passing 10 10.44 -4.19%
    Rushing 5 6.69 -25.23%
  TOTAL NET YARDS 276 305.13 -9.55%
    Total Plays 48 59.75 -19.67%
    Average Gain Per Play 5.8 5.1 13.73%
  NET YARDS RUSHING 90 115.13 -21.82%
    Rushes 19 27.44 -30.75%
    Average Per Rush 4.7 4.2 11.90%
  NET YARDS PASSING 186 190 -2.11%
    Yards Per Pass Play 6.4 5.9 8.47%
    Times Sacked 4 2.38 68.42%
    Had Intercepted 0 0.94 -100.00%
    Fumbles Lost 1 0.94 6.67%

None of the numbers here really stick out, but it is interesting to me that the Bills averaged 4.7 yards per rush, nearly 12% above their average last year. Maybe the Bills should have rushed a few more times. The Patriots’ pass rush was effective, registering nearly 69% more sacks than the Bills averaged giving up in 2008.

Patriots’ Offensive Boxscore vs. Bills’ 2008 Defensive Averages

The second table is a comparison of the Patriots’ offensive numbers from the game to the Bills’ defensive averages from 2008. This tells us how the Patriots offense performed compared to Bills’ defensive averages from last year.

Team Statistics Patriots’ Off vs. Bills’ Def
  NE  BUFAvgDef % Difference
  First Downs 28 18.31 52.90%
    Passing 22 10.44 110.78%
    Rushing 4 7.06 -43.36%
  TOTAL NET YARDS 441 326.06 35.25%
    Total Plays 77 60.69 26.88%
    Average Gain Per Play 5.7 5.4 5.56%
  NET YARDS RUSHING 73 121.63 -39.98%
    Rushes 23 28.44 -19.12%
    Average Per Rush 3.2 4.3 -25.58%
  NET YARDS PASSING 368 204.44 80.01%
    Yards Per Pass Play 6.8 6.3 7.94%
    Times Sacked 1 1.5 -33.33%
    Had Intercepted 1 0.63 60.00%
    Fumbles Lost 0 0.75 -100.00%

The Patriots appear to have dominated Buffalo’s pass defense, although the Pats’ rushing attack left something to be desired. The Patriots’ yardage total was 35% better than the Bills averaged allowing in 2008, and their passing yards were 80% more than the Bills allowed on average in 2008. The rushing game is where they struggled, rushing for 40% fewer yards than the Bills’ 2008 average allowed and over 25% lower yards per rush.

Patriots’ Offensive Boxscore vs. Patriots’ 2008 Offensive Averages

The third table compares the Patriots’ offensive output in this game against their average offensive output from 2008. So, it gives an indication as to how the Bills’ defense performed against the Patriots’ 2008 offensive averages.

Team Statistics Bills’ Def vs. Patriots’ Off
  NE  NE AvgOff % Difference
  First Downs 28 22.25 25.84%
    Passing 22 11.63 89.25%
    Rushing 4 9.06 -55.86%
  TOTAL NET YARDS 441 365.44 20.68%
    Total Plays 77 68.44 12.51%
    Average Gain Per Play 5.7 5.3 7.55%
  NET YARDS RUSHING 73 142.38 -48.73%
    Rushes 23 32.06 -28.27%
    Average Per Rush 3.2 4.4 -27.27%
  NET YARDS PASSING 368 223.06 64.98%
    Yards Per Pass Play 6.8 6.1 11.48%
    Times Sacked 1 3 -66.67%
    Had Intercepted 1 0.69 45.45%
    Fumbles Lost 0 0.63 -100.00%

This table reflects what the second table above showed, that the Bills’ defense did a solid job of shutting down the Patriots’ rushing game, but overall did a poor job against their passing game. One could argue that with Tom Brady back, New England is returning to a more pass heavy attack, but the yards per rush do indicate that the running game just wasn’t effective. Fortunately for New England, the passing game was, to the tune of 65% above their 2008 passing yards average. The single interception was returned for a touchdown and is the reason that the Patriots needed two touchdowns to win in the end.

Bills’ Offensive Boxscore vs. Patriots’ 2008 Defensive Averages

The fourth table compares the Bills’ offensive output with the Patriots’ average defensive numbers from 2008. So, this gives an indication as to how the Bills’ offense performed against the Patriots’ defense.

Team Statistics Bills’ Off vs. Patriots’ Def
  BUF NE AvgDef % Difference
  First Downs 17 16.75 1.49%
    Passing 10 11 -9.09%
    Rushing 5 4.88 2.56%
  TOTAL NET YARDS 276 309 -10.68%
    Total Plays 48 57.5 -16.52%
    Average Gain Per Play 5.8 5.4 7.41%
  NET YARDS RUSHING 90 107.63 -16.38%
    Rushes 19 25.94 -26.75%
    Average Per Rush 4.7 4.1 14.63%
  NET YARDS PASSING 186 201.38 -7.64%
    Yards Per Pass Play 6.4 6.4 0.00%
    Times Sacked 4 1.94 106.45%
    Had Intercepted 0 0.88 -100.00%
    Fumbles Lost 1 0.5 100.00%

As with the first table, no number sticks out greatly here. The 4 sacks were just over twice what the Patriots’ defense averaged in 2008. The single fumble lost was late in the game and allowed New England the chance to win the game.

Overall, the Patriots were the dominant team in the box score, and they probably would have won more easily except for the interception that the Bills returned for a touchdown. So far, if there is a cause for concern for New England going forward, it is in the running game.

Let me know your thoughts.

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