FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The final results are in, and the New England Patriots have earned a top-10 ranking in the four major statistical categories: turnovers, points scored/allowed, third down offense/defense and red zone offense/defense.
It’s extremely rare to have those types of results.
Two categories where things turned dramatically since Nov. 20 (a defining point for the defense, according to linebacker Dont’a Hightower) are red-zone defense and turnover differential.
Consider that prior to that game, the Patriots’ red-zone D ranked 19th as opponents scored 16 touchdowns on 29 trips. The team’s turnover differential tied for 13th at that juncture at plus-1, with nine takeaways and eight giveaways.
So over the team’s final seven games, albeit not against some of the best competition, the Patriots made up a lot of ground.
“Coach always says [until a team learns how not to lose games, it can’t win them], and that’s a good formula. Turnover margin, there’s no stat that correlates better to winning than that,” quarterback Tom Brady said on sports radio WEEI on Monday. “That’s why I think our team has been so successful over the years; we don’t turn the ball over as often as our opponents do. And we get them on defense. We don’t turn it over on offense, and we give ourselves more opportunities to score.”
Specific to turnover differential, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia credited players, first and foremost.
“It’s something that obviously is critical for us that we work really hard on. Sometimes it just starts happening, and it catches fire a little bit, and guys are able to kind of stay after it,” he said.
Using the defensive turnaround as a springboard, here is the season-ending “stat check” of the key statistical categories:
Final: 3rd -- Plus-12 (23 takeaways, 11 giveaways)
Last week: Tied-3rd -- Plus-10 (21 takeaways, 11 giveaways)
Final: 8th (60 trips, 38 touchdowns)
Last week: 8th (56 trips, 35 touchdowns)
Final: Tied-8th (44 trips, 23 touchdowns)
Last week: Tied-10th (42 trips, 22 touchdowns)
Final: 3rd (27.5)
Last week: 5th (27.1)
Final: 1st (15.625)
Last week: 1st (15.7)
Final: 4th (104 of 227, 45.8 percent)
This week: 4th (97 of 215, 45.1 percent)
Final: 7th (76 of 206, 36.9 percent)
Last week: 4th (69 of 194, 35.6 percent)