Patriots ranked 7th in NFL in blitzing

Reed Albergotti writes about the blitz in the Wall Street Journal and makes the point that when teams do so against Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, he usually thrives. The headline reads "When the blitz is a bad idea".

Using the article as a jumping-off point, I thought it could be interesting to tap into the ESPN Stats & Information database to review the Patriots' usage of blitzes in the 2009 season. This is what I found:

1. The Patriots sent five or more rushers 41.3 percent of the time. That ranked them as the seventh-most blitzing team in the NFL.

2. The league average for blitzing was 34.8 percent.

3. The Jets (57.1) and Saints (49.3) ranked 1 and 2 in terms of blitz percentage. The other two teams playing this weekend -- the Vikings (30 percent, 23rd) and Colts (25.5 percent, 29th) -- were below the league average.

ANALYSIS: If the Patriots felt like they were generating enough pressure out of their standard four-man rush, they probably wouldn't have as high a blitz percentage. Unlike the Jets and Saints, they aren't a traditional blitz-heavy unit. That's why upgrading the outside linebacker spot -- where the fourth rusher in the 3-4 alignment most often comes from -- figures to be an important priority for the Patriots this offseason.