Then and Now: Super Bowl Comparison (Part 2)

Wes Welker

Shane R continues his breakdown of the 2007 and 2011 version of the Patriots and Giants. Although things appear similar, the stats tell a different story in this matchup.

The New England Patriots: Then and Now

    Even casual football fans know about the Patriots 2007 season, perfection in the regular season ended with a loss in one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history.  Records aside, how do the 2011 Patriots stack up against the 2007 version of themselves?  In 2007 the Patriots only played seven teams that were .500 or better and had a turnover margin of +9.  The 2011 Patriots played nine teams .500 or better (going 7-2) and had a comparable turnover margin of +13.   

In 2007, the Patriots were scoring juggernauts (37.9 PPG) while allowing 20.6 PPG.  Remarkably, the 2011 Patriots allowed exactly the same number of PPG, 20.6, but scored fewer PPG, 29.9.  Although they were allowing the same number PPG, the 2011 Patriots are giving up almost 100 more yards of offense per game now (403) then they did in 2007 (310), while offensively the numbers are about the same, 404 in 2011 and 409 in 2007.  The 2007 and 2011 Patriots both had blistering red zone efficiency numbers (74.2% and 65.8%, respectively) but the third down conversion rate in 2011 (45.4%) was down markedly from 2007 (52.7%).

M.Vrabel
Mike Vrabel , hard to replace.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 2007 Patriots fared quite well over the regular season in takeaways (+16, 3rd in the NFL), while registering 21 sacks, nine interceptions, and six recovered fumbles.  Looking at 2011, while the Patriots surrendered a large amount of yards (31st in the league), they were 3rd in the league in turnover margin, registering 23 interceptions and 11 recovered fumbles to go with 32 sacks.  In 2007, the Patriots were led on defense by Mike Vrabel (12.5 sacks), Teddy Bruschi (92 tackles), and Junior Seau (3 interceptions).  Today's Patriots are led by Mark Anderson (10.0 sacks), Jerod Mayo (95 tackles) and Kyle Arrington (7 interceptions).  Although his contributions do not necessarily show up in the stat line, Vincent Wilfork has been an absolute terror for opposing offenses long the defensive line.  Andre Carter also had 10.0 sacks for the Patriots this year, but has been placed on Injured Reserve with a thigh injury.

How much has changed for the playmakers on offense for the Patriots? 

Well, Brady is still Brady.  While he had an outstanding year in 2007 (4,806 yards, 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 68.9% completion rate, and 117. rating), he continues to play at the level that has made him a sure fire Hall of Famer, posting 5,235 yards, 39 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 65.6% completion rate, and a 105.6 rating.  While his performance overall can be considered a drop off from 2007, he is still one of the top three quarterbacks in the game.  What has really changed for Brady and the Patriots is the receiving corps and how they get their yards.

In 2007, Brady had a bona fide deep threat in Randy Moss and the Patriots top four receivers (Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth, and Jabar Gafney) accounted for nearly 80% of Brady's total yardage.  As Brady's primary target, Moss had 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns.  Welker (112 receptions for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns) Stallworth (46 receptions for 697 yards and three touchdowns), and Gafney (36 receptions for 449 yards and five touchdowns) comprised the rest of the Patriots primary passing attack.  

R.Moss
Randy Moss had 50 TDs the last time the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl .  No Moss, we'll see,
In 2011, with Moss gone, Welker was Brady's primary target, totaling 122 receptions for 1,569 yards to go with nine touchdowns.  Rob Gronkowski had a record breaking year for tight ends with 90 receptions for 1327 yards and 17 touchdowns.  Aaron Hernandez (79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns) and Deion Branch (51 receptions for 702 yards and five touchdowns) comprised the majority of the Patriots passing attack.  The fundamental difference between the Patriots 2007 and 2011 passing attacks was a huge change in YAC totals.  In 2007, with Moss getting the deep balls, YAC totaled 35% of the four receivers' yardage.  In 2011, this percentage skyrocketed to 57% of their total yardage, a reflection of the shift in the execution of their passing game.

    The Patriots have always been a very quietly efficient team at running the ball.  In fact, there is no significant difference in the Patriots' two teams.  In 2007, the Patriots' total rushing attack accounted for 1,849 yards (4.1 YPC) and in 2011, they rushed for 1,764 yards (4.0 YPC).  The running game's big strength comes in the form of play action passing, although they do not neglect it by any stretch:  the 2011 Patriots have a 58/42 pass/run ratio.

Super Bowl XLII and 2011 Game

    Taking all this information into consideration, how did the Super Bowl and this year's regular season game pan out for the two teams? In the 2007, a lot of credit rightly went to the Giants' pass rush and how they kept pressure on Brady all day.  However, if you compare the two offenses, it becomes quite obvious the Giants executed their offense far better than the Patriots.  Digging deeper into the final box score for each team (Giants – 338 total yards, 247 passing, 91 rushing; Patriots – 274 total yards, 229 passing, 45 rushing), the numbers don't lie:

Giants – 7.3 yards per pass, 3.5 YPC
Patriots – 4.8 yards per pass, 2.8 YPC

Even though time of position was almost 50/50, the Patriots were unable to get their high powered offense on track, and ultimately, the Giants won because they were more efficient.
    
    Looking at this year's match up during the regular season, the Patriots actually were more efficient than the Giants, but committed four turnovers to the Giants two.  In every other stat, the Patriots were similar or better than the Giants:

Giants: 361 total yards, 250 passing (6.4 yards per pass), 111 rushing (3.8 YPC)
Patriots: 438 total yards, 332 passing (6.8 yards per pass, 106 rushing (4.4 YPC)

Given that the time of possession was again equal, it is obvious that the key to the Giants' victory were the four turnovers.  If the Patriots want to have any chance to win this Super Bowl, they will need to cut down on the turnovers and slow down the Giants stellar pass rush.

    So, now that you have been bombarded with a stat analysis of the two different years, you can see these are two completely different teams that are meeting this Super Bowl.  The Patriots have moved away from a stretch the field passing game to emphasizing the crossing routes that allow receivers to break into the open field and down the seams.  The Giants, with the maturation of Manning, have moved away from the focus on the ground game to a more vertical passing game.  The only thing that is certain is that this Sunday when the two teams step on the field, it's a new ball game and none of these stats will matter one bit!   

Read Part 1 where Shane talks about the Giants then and now.

Shane In Los Angeles appeared on Sirius NFL Radio to discuss the Patriots and Giants breakdown on a statistical level.  In addition to blogging for the site Sports-kings.com  you can follow him on Twitter. he goes by the  twitter handle (@Shaner021) .

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