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Home » New England PatriotsSeptember 2005 » To show our simple skill, that is the true beginning of our end.

To show our simple skill, that is the true beginning of our end.

Week 1: September 8, 2005
Raiders (0-1), 20
Patriots (1-0), 30

Football was the household sport of choice in my childhood. My dad and I would challenge each other with IBM’s “You Make the Call.” I kept a guide of referee signals at my side during games and would report back to my dad the results of plays that he may have missed.

These were the days before hyper-realistic video games. I played Mattel Electronics’ handheld Football and pretended my rectangular red blip was Tony Dorsett evading tacklers as it scored its 11th touchdown. You had to have an imagination back then.

I’ve heard it said that kids grow out of baseball to graduate to football. My appreciation of football will forever be tied to my childhood and my baser instincts to run like mad and collide without care. Football is a primal contest that appeals to my reptilian brain.

And yet, there is a cerebral aspect that I have only recently begun to appreciate. Whatever it is that Bill Belichick does behind the scenes to choreograph the chaos is a mystery to me. Part of my need to write about the New England Patriots this season is an attempt to understand the planning behind each game and better appreciate the sport in its totality.

Also, I’ll need something to write about instead of hot stove suppositions and mascot malarkey during the winter.

So, some key metrics I’ll observe throughout the course of the season will be:

  • Halftime adjustments (analyzing the difference between yards allowed and gained between first and second halves of games)
  • Turnover ratio (can be a determinant of a team’s tendency to win or lose)
  • Red zone efficiency (performance within 20 yards of the end zone on both sides of the ball is a pivotal element in the gameplan)
  • Net penalty yards (mental errors can erode great play execution, just as giving extra outs to a baseball team can lose the game)
  • Third down conversion efficiency (converting third downs keeps the offense on the field, extending time of possession and increasing the probability of scoring)

The Raiders gained 215 yards in the first half compared to 91 yards in the second whereas the Patriots’ split was 224/203. The Patriots’ clear advantage is shown with their success in halving their opponent’s offensive production.

As for turnover ratio, the Patriots did not hand over possession of the ball while Raider rookie Chris Carr fumbled out of bounds and Collins had a pass intercepted by Wilfork, both in the third quarter. The interception led to a Dillon touchdown.

Oakland converted 2 of 2 red zone opportunities, so their 100% efficiency beat New England’s 80% rate. The difference is the Patriots were successful in 4 out of 5 attempts.

As per their reputation, the Raiders had many penalties called against them: 16 for 149 yards. In contrast, the Patriots were penalized by about a third of the yards, 46, and had only 7 infractions.

Finally, New England barely edged Oakland with its 38% third down conversion rate (6 for 16), with its AFC rivals converting 4 of 13 for 31%.

As baseball season wanes, I hope to be covering the Patriots in greater detail, perhaps including pre-game posts exploring potential strategies and pitfalls. I’m (almost) ready for some football.

Game Leaders
Kerry Collins: 18/40, 265 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Tom Brady: 24/38, 306 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT

LaMont Jordan: 18 carries, 70 yards, 0 TD, 14 yard longest gain
Corey Dillon: 23 carries, 63 yards, 2 TD, 10 yard longest gain
Randy Moss: 5 receptions, 130 yards, 1 TD, 73 yard longest gain
Deion Branch: 7 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD, 29 yard longest gain
Nnamdi Asomugha: 7 tackles, 1 assist
Richard Seymour: 6 tackles, 1 assist
Mike Vrabel:
4 tackles, 1 assist, 1 sack
Vince Wilfork: 1 INT


It's funny, you know... I *get* baseball stats far more readily than I get football stats, despite the fact that I've been intensely following football for longer than baseball, despite the fact that I follow both pro and college football while I only really follow pro baseball. I have much less faith in football stats, but I'll be damned if I know why. Hm.

I know what you mean, Sam. I think baseball stats are more objective. In football, a quarterback can get 500+ yards in a game but still be a loser in the context of the score because of lack of success in the red zone.

Football yardage by its very nature has to be understood in the context of the game. In comparison, one can usually look at baseball statistics in isolation.

True. True. I think it's also because football by its very nature is more of a team sport... baseball is a team sport, but a separated one, if that makes sense. Individual stats can be counted on. Stats tend to break down when they're dependent on more than one person (like Win stats), and I feel like a lot of football stats might not translate as directly to overall team success as baseball stats do.

I don't think that made sense. But IN MY BRAIN it did.

It makes sense in my brain, too. I think we're on a similar wavelength. I don't know if you should be alarmed by this or not.

Here's a good example: Would Emmitt Smith had gotten as many yards as he did without Daryl Johnston?

From '90 to '99, Smith had one of the best blocking fullbacks in Johnston paving the way for him. Notably, in '97, when Johnston only played 6 games, Smith earned 1,074 yards. In contrast, in '96 he earned 1,204 yards and in '98 he earned 1,332 yards. Both those years Johnston played all 16 games. I don't believe the top tier RBs, who are in my reckoning Brown, Payton, Sanders, and Simpson, have had similar support. Consequently, I don't put Smith in the top tier.

(I originally posted this in a thread on redsoxnation.net that discussed Smith's placement in relation to other running backs.)

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