INSIDE THE NUMBERS: A Closer Look at the Patriots Red Zone Production Last Season

Ian Logue
August 13, 2012 at 02:55pm ET

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Yesterday's report of Plaxico Burress visiting Foxboro raised a few eyebrows for Patriots fans who were wondering why in the world Bill Belicihck would entertain the thought of yet another player being added to the current log jam at the receiver position. With the competition being what it is, it didn't exactly seem like it made a lot of sense.

The latest reports have Burress out of the running to join the team but upon further review, there's one thing that the veteran receiver had in his favor that could have made him an asset, and that was his effectiveness down inside the red zone.

Inside the 5 yard line it was Aaron Hernandez who was targeted most for the Patriots offense last season. (FILE:USPresswire)
Last year Burress finished with 10 catches for 84 yards (8.4) and 7 touchdowns with the Jets in the red area, which would have given New England an additional scoring threat inside the 20. The Patriots only had three players who registered a significant number of catches in that area in 2011, led by Rob Gronkowski (26 targets, 18 receptions, 183 yards and 12 touchdowns), Wes Welker (20 targets, 17 receptions for 133 yards and 6 touchdowns) and Aaron Hernandez (24 targets, 12 receptions, 77 yards and 6 touchdowns).

Overall in the red zone Brady was 57-of-99 (58% completion percentage) while throwing 29 of his 39 touchdowns down there along with 3 interceptions.

Still, you can never have too much firepower, and adding one more scoring threat certainly wouldn't have hurt had they added Burress.

I did a little more digging thanks to a post on our messageboard and noticed that when the Patriots got inside the 5 yard line, that's where they definitely weren't at their best throwing the football. Brady's completion percentage drops to 45% after the veteran QB was just 14-of-31 for 32 yards, while throwing 12 touchdowns and one interception.

The receiving leaders down that close were Aaron Hernandez (12 targets, 5 receptions, 10 yards and 4 touchdowns, Deion Branch (7 targets, 4 receptions, 9 yards and 4 touchdowns), Wes Welker (3 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Rob Gronkowski (5 targets, 2 receptions, 6 yards and 2 touchdowns).

Looking at it by down, here are Brady's passing stats from the same distance (Inside the 5 Yard Line) last season:

1st Down: 5-of-12 (42%), 14 yards, 4 TD's, 0 INT's
2nd Down: 4-of-6 (67%), 8 yards, 4 TD's, 0 INT's
3rd Down: 5-of-13 (38%), 10 yards, 4 TD's, 1 INT
4th Down: No Attempts

Inside the 5 the Patriots did have success running the football, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis carrying 21 times for 27 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading all runninbacks from that distance. After that it was Stevan Ridley (5 carries, 6 yards, 0 TD's), Shane Vereen (2 carries, 5 yards, 1 TD), Danny Woodhead (2 carries, 3 yards, 0 TD's), Tom Brady (5 carries, 3 yards, 3 TD's) and Rob Gronkowski (1 carry, 2 yards, 1 TD - although this initially was beleived to be a pass play before the officials ruled it was a lateral).

Here's a look at each player by down from that distance:

1st Down:
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 9 carries, 14 yards (1.6 avg) 4 TD's
Stevan Ridley: 3 carries, 5 yards (1.7 avg) 0 TD's
Shane Vereen: 1 carry, 1 yard (1.0 avg) 0 TD's
Tom Brady: 2 carries, 1 yard (0.5 avg) 1 TD

2nd Down:
BenJarvus Green Ellis: 11 carries, 12 yards (1.1 avg) 5 TD's
Danny Woodhead: 2 carries, 3 yards (1.5 avg) 0 TD's
Rob Gronkowski: 1 carry, 2 yards (2.0 avg) 1 TD
Tom Brady: 3 carries, 2 yards (0.7 avg) 2 TD's

3rd Down:
Stevan Ridley: 1 carry, 1 yard (1.0 avg) 0 TD's
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 1 carry, 1 yard (1.0 avg), 1 TD

4th Down:
Shane Vereen: 1 carry, 4 yards (4.0 avg) 1 TD
Stevan Ridley: 1 carry, 0 yards (0.0 avg) 0 TD

It's interesting to note that the 3rd Down stat line basically shows you that if the Patriots get inside the 5 and they're facing 3rd down, with only 2 rushing attempts, they're clearly throwing the football.

Needless to say it's not surprising that Belichick is exploring their options and trying to cover all their bases. After Welker and Brandon Lloyd, there are still quite a few question marks as Jabar Gaffney, Dante Stallworth, Julian Edelman and Branch will be the ones looking to likely battle for the #3 receiver spot.

How the new guys will perform in that area remains to be seen, but here's a look at what they did last season:

2011 Red Zone Regular Season Totals
Jabar Gaffney: 12 receptions for 89 yards and 5 touchdowns
Donte Stallworth: 3 receptions for 18 yards and 2 touchdowns
Brandon Lloyd: 6 receptions for 40 yards and 3 touchdowns

In the end Belichick obviously had his reasons for continuing to look at receivers, and when asked by the media yesterday about it he basically didn't sound impressed with what he had seen offensively in their first exhibition game.

"I’d pretty much say the same thing about them as the whole rest of the offense," said Belichick. "When you have 10 punts and two turnovers, we have a long way to go."