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Revisiting Bend Don't Break and Time of Possession

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by BradyManny, Sep 6, 2012.

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  1. BradyManny

    BradyManny Rookie

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    It may be obvious by now, but I consider efficiency per possession a very telling statistic.

    I was challenged in another thread to look beyond per possession - what came up was: the question of who is to blame for the Patriots being 27th in Time of Possession? The theory patsfaninpittsburgh posited was that the Patriots hurry-up offense did the team no favors in the battle for time of possession, which maybe sounds like it had a ring of truth to it. So I wanted to look closer.

    Just how much was the offense and defense responsible for poor time of possession? All of this doesn't take into account whether this matters at all, anyway, but that's for another post...

    So, I took those drive stats, mangled together some numbers and tried to draw some conclusions from them. I'll sum up those numbers here and go into detail in another post.

    Let me introduce two stats I cobbled together. They are simple Time per Drive (amount of time per possession the given unit was on the field) & Points Per Minute (both for offense and defense). Because of offense and defense, it's really four stats, and I think two of them don't matter at all (I'll explain later).

    I'll give the caveat that all of these numbers are rounded, and based upon statistics I'm finding online, that I am assuming are valid. They all seem to add up when I do the math, so I'm assuming it's right.

    Your 2011 New England Patriots:
    Offensive points per drive: 3rd
    Offensive yards per drive: 2nd
    Time per offensive drive: 14th
    Points per minute: 1st

    Defensive points per drive: 21st
    Defensive yards per drive: 32nd
    Time per defensive drive: 30th
    Points yielded per minute: 13th


    The league average for Time per Drive was about 2:32. The Patriots offense averaged 2:38 per drive. The Patriots defense averaged about 2:53 per drive.

    So, on average, when the Patriots offense took the field, it had the ball for six more seconds than league average. When the Patriots defense took the field, it had the ball for twenty one more seconds than league average.

    A lot of this means a whole lot of nothing, but I find it interesting, and I think it definitively makes it clear that the Patriots woes in time of possession last year are obviously due to the defense not being able to get off the field. It isn't Earth-shattering, but I found it at least noteworthy.

    Some larger observations to follow...
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012
  2. BradyManny

    BradyManny Rookie

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    My follow-up...

    It would take someone with some actual background in statistics and a greater intelligence than I to cull something truly earth-shattering from this, but I do think it introduces some interesting questions.

    We've long heard about wanting offenses that sustain long drives to keep the opposing offense off the field. We heard this when we went up against the high-powered Colts offense in the prime of Manning's era; and we hear this when teams gameplan for the explosive Brady-led offense.

    Look, I'm no stat major. I haven't done math in ages. So if you know more than me about this subject, please jump in now. BUT...

    To me, the reason why I stress the POSSESSIONS as so important is this: the more possessions in a game, the higher the sample size on all of these efficiency metrics, and, I'm guessing, the more likely that these efficiencies will bear out.

    In short, the better your team, all around, the better off you are lengthening the game (more possessions).

    On the other hand, if you are facing an opponent which you feel is, overall, better than you, you are better off shortening the game (less possessions) and hoping things do not trend to norm.

    SB46, sadly, continues to be a disturbing reminder of why I take these statistics seriously: if you look at the Patriots offense from after the safety up until the final hail mary drive, it averaged 46.6 yards per drive, and 2.43 points per drive. So for a big chunk of the game, the team was efficient: the yards are above it's average (which points to field position woes) and it's points are down, but not dramatically so (still would've put it at 4th in the league).

    Two thoughts: 1) More possessions likely means that points per drive goes up. One touchdown makes a big difference, obviously, and more cracks at it means it likely trends to its norm. 2) One mistake, the safety, and it's all thrown off. That mistake, combined with a defense that could just not get off the damn field did us in.

    Speaking of not getting off the field: the defense, excluding a kneeldown, averaged a whopping 4:38 per drive in SB46, two minutes more than league average.

    Bottom Line: The Patriots offensive efficiency is right there at the top of the league. In fact, I found out they score more per minute than any team in the league, and they are third in points per drive - so the more they get the ball, the more they are scoring.

    Folks can cite bend don't break and say we don't give up a lot of points. That's fine. That's all good. I know the object of defense is to not let them score. But I can't see that - at least statistically - it's deniable that the Patriots are much better off with a defense that gets off the field quickly and increases the amount of total possessions per game. There are not a lot of teams that can hang with this Patriots team when that is the case. You get aberrations (Bills game last year), but more often, this team will win.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012
  3. Avenger

    Avenger Rookie

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    #11 Jersey

    Excellent write up, it confirm what I've been thinking but I hadn't put the research in to confirm, thank you for your time that you put into this.
  4. KontradictioN

    KontradictioN Do you even lift? PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #24 Jersey

    You're really stating the obvious here. Of course there's a huge chance that you score more points when you have more possessions. Of course you get more possessions when your defense isn't getting systematically driven on. Of course the offense has more opportunities when the opposing offense has less T.O.P. Sadly, some folks (and most of these "folks" think that the defense was just fine last year), don't understand the obvious. I suspect that this obvious fact that was spewed over and over and over again last year by those of us who had actually seen the mid-2000's New England Patriots dynasty era defenses play and know what a quality Pats defense actually is was also seen by Bill Belichick, hence some of the wholsale changes on the defensive side of the ball over the offseason.
  5. BelichickFan

    BelichickFan B.O. = Fugazi PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #24 Jersey

    I have also moved on from the "only points matter" theory for a much more obvious, less statistical basis. I don't want to revisit that last game we played but their punter killed us putting punts inside the 20 - largely because he has a great day and largely because he wasn't punting from inside his 30 after a 3 and out. I'm not interested in hearing how decent our defnse is because they forced a stop at our 40, allowed the punter drop it inside the 20 and we start our drive on, say, the 8 yard line when a good defense would make him punt, say, 20 yards earlier and give us the ball at the 30 yard line.

    Yards may not be on the scoreboard but they do matter.
  6. RelocatedPatFan

    RelocatedPatFan Rookie

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    I was goign to put together some analysis about yards per possession a few weeks ago, but never really got around to it. I found it interesting that our offense/defense per possession, but I figured there'd be ore context needed to back up the oddities.

    Based on ToP and yards per posession, it seems to indicate we gave up yards quickly (though we'd haveto see yards per play on offense/defense to get a better picture).

    Still, my take-away was that getting to the middle of the pack for the defense would make the offense that much better (more possessions, fewer yards to go). Though, our D gave up middle of the road in points and excelled at generating turneovers.
  7. Deus Irae

    Deus Irae PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Disable Jersey

    Just to add to the OP:

    The Patriots defense faced 405 rushing attempts and 619 passing attempts (w/ 386 completions). That means that there was probably a higher rate of plays leading to clock stoppages, just because of pass incompletions, than there would be if they'd faced more balanced pass/run numbers, the way a team like Ravens did.
  8. BradyManny

    BradyManny Rookie

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    Good stat and good point.
  9. ivanvamp

    ivanvamp Rookie

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    Starting field position really matters too. Obviously it's all connected. Here's the starting field position in SB 46.

    NYG
    NY 23
    NY 22
    NY 20
    NY 23
    NY 26
    NY 35
    NE 48
    NY 8
    NY 12

    AVG: NY 24.5

    NE
    NE 6
    NE 29
    NE 20
    NE 4
    NE 21
    NE 17
    NE 20
    NE 8
    NE 20

    AVG: NE 16.1

    Not one time did the Patriots start a drive further up the field than their own 30. Three times they started inside their own 10. 8 of 9 drives they started at their 21 or worse. Meanwhile, 6 of 9 NY drives started beyond their 21.

    The Pats were *ALWAYS* marching uphill. All day long. Tough way to make a living against a solid defense.

    EDIT: Essentially, the Pats had a hidden yard disadvantage of more than 75 yards in that game. And 75 yards is about a single touchdown drive's worth of yards. That right there could easily have been the difference in the game.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012
  10. shmessy

    shmessy Maude Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #75 Jersey

    I hope to see the Patriots employ the "Bend But Don't Break Defense" consistently this year.......


    .....at the OPPONENT'S 15 yard line.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012
  11. lamafist

    lamafist Rookie

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    That theoretical model you've arrived at doesn't have to be less statistically based -- in fact, quite the opposite. You should check out the statistical analysis over at AdvancedFootballStats, particularly their use of Win Probability Added and Expected Points Added.

    For every in-drive situation -- yard line, down+distance, and time/quarter -- there is a historical all-league average for points scored by teams in that position. If you compare the average points scored -- or Expected Points -- between two plays, the difference between them would be the Expected Points Added value for that play (if the play reduces the chance of scoring points, it would have a negative points-added value.)

    Add in one more factor to the above -- point differential -- and you can find the historical all-league W/L record of teams in said situation, which is called Win Probability. Similarly, for every play, there is a change in the win probability before and after, which is called the Win Probability Added for that play.

    There are intriguing metrics because they can show exactly what you point out -- that giving up yards on defense has a demonstrable negative effect on the chance of your offense scoring points on an ensuing possession, and thus a demonstrable effect on your team's probability of winning the game.

    In the case of last year's difference, despite being 15th in actual points allowed, they were 29th in Expected Points Added. The difference is largely owed to the fact that the offense was good enough that opposing offenses had on average the second-longest field to go against our defense.

    This puts the lie to the argument that our defense was truly "bend but don't break" last year.
  12. Gumby

    Gumby Rookie

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    good point + addition to a GREAT thread.

    I would posit that the safety pretty much solely accounts for that 75 yd deficit. And the timing of it that early in the game had a synergistic effect on the outcome. If they didnt get the 2 pts and the extra yards that resulted in more points; the Pats would have gone up on them sooner.

    IMO if Pats were able to go up earlier, Gints would have got desperate and eli would have heaved a few more up there for grabs. it would have been a downward spiral. But instead they stayed close and as pretty much everybody knew by then; a BB bend but dont break D ALWAYS seems to give up a 4Q SB TD (rams, car, eagles,nyg). So they were still in it morale wise. all she wrote.
  13. JJDChE

    JJDChE Rookie

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    Bend But Don't Break sucks. I want a Don't Bend defense.
  14. jmt57

    jmt57 Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    If you do an internet search on 'yards per point' you can find plenty of articles and rankings on this relatively unknown statistic of an offense or defense's efficiency. While we are looking at various stats I just wanted to throw this one out there.

    For an offense the less yards per point is better; for defense it is the opposite. For example if an offense has to travel ten yards for every point they score that's good, but if you have to move the ball thirty yards for each point on the scoreboard that's bad. Reverse it defensively: forcing the opponent to move the ball a lot more for each point is good; allowing the opponent to not do so is bad.

    While it is not perfect, neither is any other single statistic when analyzing a defense or an offense. On offense last year the Pats were among the best at 13.2 and the Packers were number one at 11.8; the Rams and Chiefs were the worst at 23.5. On defense the 49ers were first (20.5), followed by the Pats (19.4) and Steelers (18.7); the least efficient teams were Minnesota and Tampa Bay (12.8), Buffalo (13.7) and the Jets (13.8)

    The stat does a nice job of combining yardage and turnovers into one number and ranking. Remove the effect turnovers have and obviously the Pats are no longer as good on defense, nor the Jets so bad.


    Would it be nice if the Pats gave up fewer yards? Would it be nice if they forced more three and outs? Of course, absolutely. Hopefully that will be the case this year, as relying on turnovers can be a difficult proposition.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2012
  15. Gumby

    Gumby Rookie

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    the yards per point though is highly impacted by the role of ST play. As earlier poster noted in SB we were killed by the punter weatherford (imo he was more the mvp than eli). forcing the other team to long drives makes that a high yd/pt. If the opponent coughs up the ball on his side of the field you are getting a low yd/pt; but did you do anything to earn that? So in the end; yd/pt isnt so much a measure of O capability (imo) as it is ST / turnover generation.

    I like the OPs time per possession / pts per possession metrics as being more telling of something than any yds/pt stat.
  16. ivanvamp

    ivanvamp Rookie

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    I don't have access to the raw data, but if you look at the chart here (Advanced NFL Stats: Expected Points) you will see that (and I'm eyeballing it for sure) the average point expectancy starting at your own 16 is about -0.1. The average point expectancy starting at your own 24 is about +0.5.

    Now, multiply that by nine possessions, and the Pats' point expectancy in that game was about -0.9, while the Giants' was about +4.5. A difference of about five-and-a-half points. The final margin, if you give the Giants one more point if they had kicked the PAT instead of going for two? 5 points.

    The difference in the game right there.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012
  17. goheels22002

    goheels22002 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #50 Jersey

    Questions about points per minute: Is that points per minute in which the team possessed the ball? And is there a comparative chart of points per minute that basically says a potent offense trumps a stingy defense?

    Fundamentally, time of possession is meaningless unless you do little or nothing with the time you have the ball. Right?

    If the Patriots opponents have an edge in time of possession, but their points per minute sucks, the bend don't break is an efficient way to rest your offense while the other team beats its head against the wall and comes away with few points.
  18. PATSYLICIOUS

    PATSYLICIOUS Rookie

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    Yikes! Is that including the Giants last drive in the first half which lasted 4 seconds,after our TD, which would make that number even more staggering? Regardless, that pretty much confirms what myself and others have been saying about the SB. I'm not taking the blame completely off our offense for that game, but the defense definitely needs to do a better job of getting off the field!
  19. jason423

    jason423 Rookie

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    One of these days Id like to run some of those stats myself to see how current things hold up. I ran the Jets offense and defense last season looking at starting field position effect on scoring opportunities and it didnt seem like there was an appreciable distance until possession began around the 40 yard line.

    One Last Look Backward as the Jets Move Ahead

    Maybe Ill just run it for NE if I get a chance since they are such a strong offensive team.
  20. ATippett56

    ATippett56 Rookie

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  21. ausbacker

    ausbacker Brady > Manning. PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #51 Jersey

    I'd like to be present at the conversation where you tell Bill Belichick everything that's wrong with his football philosophy then offer to fix it for him with instantaneous results.
  22. ThatllMoveTheChains!!!

    ThatllMoveTheChains!!! Rookie

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    Nope it doesn't, and the Pats' TOP is absent their miscues as well. BM isn't above cherry picking to prove his points, but none of us really are. He and I went over this somewhere else (about the SB) and his points are very valid even without the cherry picking.

    Nice thread BM, you're one of the few I'll bother to read a wall of text for. As a "defender" of the defense I think this re-affirms my thoughts about what was happening last season: the offense was amongst the best in football and the defense was mediocre (maybe less...). The defense was made to look worse in certain categories and better in others because of how the offenses were forced to attack them because of the Pats' offense. The Pats' offense most likely could've been a top performing offense in every category including TOP if they truly wanted, but they focused on countering the lousy TOP by the defense. I think it's clear BB felt that the skewed TOP wasn't as important as the resulting point differential, but it's likely that this strategy bit him in the ass in the SB.

    Hopefully this season the defense and the offense won't be forced to cover up for the overall lack of playmaking by the defense.
  23. ThatllMoveTheChains!!!

    ThatllMoveTheChains!!! Rookie

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    I'm pretty sure he's semi-joking as he was amongst the defense "defenders".
  24. ausbacker

    ausbacker Brady > Manning. PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #51 Jersey

    That's highly unlikely as it would require a sense of humor on JJDChe's behalf.
  25. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    "You are what you measure"- Robert Bartley

    "You play to win the game"- Herm baby

    Hey, BradyManny

    At the least, you have a fan in TweedleDumber.

    Bet that helps.

    Your TOP arguement is really a cover for the defense question.

    This might be hard to grasp (it's a certainty numbnuts never will) but patsfaninpittsburgh never said the defense was "fine". pfip has a general methodology for evaluation but it's not complete

    What patsfaninpittsburgh points out is the obvious. The general methodology to "evaluate" defenses is rather clueless.

    If this wasn't true, how can the two teams with the "worst" defenses get to be #1 seeds in each conference? The SB winner was 28th.

    Average time of per drive?

    Look at points scored. So what if avg time per possession was within a few seconds?

    Who and when exactly do these teams score points?

    In Washinton, the Patriots scored 34 points, had well over 400 yards of offense,....and held the ball for 22 minutes......

    Has anyone developed a way to have a 10 play, 7 minute special teams drive?

    Naturally, you would rather hold the ball than score? Let's generate stats?

    If Patriots score very quickly...who has to have the ball?

    Do you realize that week one in Miami, the Patriots held the ball for 27-28 minutes?

    Based on your rationale, should Welker have scored on that 99 yard TD pass?

    I guess not, hurts TOP.

    Let's look at some specifics

    pfip continually bangs the drum that turnovers and turnover differential are the two most important stats. The scant evidence for this is 100 years a detailed statistical analysis and.......the fact that every week, every football related show always sites ball security and the most important factor for success.

    Last year, teams with top three records....were 1/2/3 in turnovers.

    Is pfip the only one with Captain Obvious underwear?

    Do turnovers affect drives? and TOP?

    Last year, the top two teams gave up the most yards and one won the most games.....and pfip should fixate on that?

    The patsfans.com low point last year was most likely the game in Oakland.

    Yet the week before the Jets brought an elite defense to the Bay Area and got blown out after surrendering a double digit lead and gave up 34 points?

    The next week the disaster defense shows up...gives up hundreds more yards and TOP minutes....and somehow after 59+ minutes played....surrendered 13 points...

    How can your evaluation methods even begin to explain this?

    pfip explains this with the obvious observation. Your methodology is not exactly good.
  26. BradyManny

    BradyManny Rookie

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    No, it does not include that drive - like Football Outsiders, I exclude kneeldowns from the equation altogether.

    So those numbers are worst case scenario, but also accurate, I would argue. I don't see why one would want to include a kneeldown into the equation, it should be thrown out if we want to see what's really going on.
  27. KontradictioN

    KontradictioN Do you even lift? PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #24 Jersey

    He was joking, I'm sure. But Belichick knew what he had wasn't working. Enter Steve Gregory, Chandler Jones, Donte Hightower, Tavan Wilson, Jake Bequette, Alfonzo Dennard, Trevor Scott...
  28. ausbacker

    ausbacker Brady > Manning. PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #51 Jersey

    Good to see my initial comment has gone straight over the top of another head...
  29. BradyManny

    BradyManny Rookie

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    Thanks ThatllMovetheChains, and likewise I look forward to your contributions to any thread.

    While I'll admit I'm not above cherry picking, in this specific instance, my cherry-pick was appropriate. Kneeldowns are always excluded from the Drive Stats I'm pulling from (Football Outsiders).

    I agree TOP doesn't really tell us much in a vacuum. It is interesting to note the following things from the data:

    - I would argue TOP is not a cause of success, just a correlation. The bottom third in TOP includes a lot of bottom-dwellers; and the top third includes a lot of good teams. You can see that the Patriots are easily the best of the poor TOP teams.

    - PFIP is right to some account that the offense factors into TOP (slightly, obviously defense factors in more), but it doesn't harm the team's performance. The Patriots were the fastest scorers of all the high-octane offenses. Their average offensive drive length was more along the lines of a team that scores about 1.9 points per drive; they scored about 2.8 per drive.

    - We can argue about how well the defense performed, I do think it ultimately comes down to a philosophical football question. Are you okay with your defense being on the field for a huge chunk of the game? Are you okay with shortening the game? If the Patriots had a defense like the Texans, they might average nearly another drive per game, which is another 2-3 points per game. Which is a pretty big boost.
  30. BradyManny

    BradyManny Rookie

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    I'm not going to argue with the importance of ball control. Obviously that plays a huge role in dictating who wins and loses.

    The problem is with relying on turnovers on defense to win is a dangerous game.

    The Patriots were third in the league in causing TOs per drive. It's this fact that bridges the gap between their awful efficiency and their ultimately average to slightly above average overall defensive production.

    But there's a catch - if you need turnovers to succeed defensively, and you allow long drives and shorten the games, games in which you force zero turnovers are particularly problematic (see SB46).

    The Patriots forced a turnover every 5.6 drives last year, third best. In the SB, the Giants had 8 real possessions (excluding one kneeldown). Had the defense forced that one turnover, maybe they win the game. And had their been more drives in the game, there's a higher chance that stat approaches norm, and one of those fumbles bounces to a Patriot.

    Basically - for a team that is as statistically efficient as the Patriots, I can't see how anyone could possibly argue that a defense that gets off the field faster improves their chances of winning.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2012
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