Patriots

Stat check: Patriots fumble stats are telling

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Stat check: Patriots fumble stats are telling

The Patriots stack up statistically against the rest of the league about like you'd expect. They are all over the board -- excellent offensively; poor defensively.

One team stat jumps off the page, though, and it explains why the Patriots are dangerous going forward, where the strength of their defense is, how well Tom Brady is playing and -- more ominously -- how fortunate they are to be 4-3.

The stat is turnover differential. The Patriots are plus-11 in turnover differential. They've come up with 18 turnovers. The fumbles are what's astounding. New England's recovered 11 so far. And the fumble forced by Vince Wilfork in the first half Sunday didn't go down as a recovery although it caused a safety.

The Cardinals and Falcons are next in the NFL in fumble recoveries and they are at seven apiece.

Chandler Jones, Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich have forcedrecovered three each. Jerod Mayo has the other one among the front-seven.

That kind of play at the front of the defense is what's allowing the Patriots to dodge bullets. So too is the care that Brady is taking with the ball. The Seattle game looms large because it was a winnable game and Brady had two big picks and a grounding that cost a field goal in a one-point loss. But nobody throws it more than Brady in the NFL and no quarterback turns it over by interception less frequently.

When you think of the timing of the big fumble recoveries -- late against the Broncos with Denver looking to close within three; Sunday in overtime, even the late one against the Cardinals when Arizona was trying to kill clock -- you see how dogged the Patriots front-seven has been.

The back end, of course, is a disaster statistically against the pass. They are 29th in terms of passing yards allowed (290 per game). Only the Saints, Bucs and Redskins are worse (303, 325 and 328 respectively). And the notion that the Patriots allow a lot of yards because they've been ahead by a bunch? Not real valid.

The top pass defenses in terms of yards allowed are the Niners, Steelers, Texans, Cowboys and Cardinals. All are decent teams and that are allowing 200 yards or fewer through the air.

The Patriots are 23rd in yards per game allowed, 24th in yards per play, eighth in rushing yards per game allowed, third in yards per attempt, 29th passing yards and 26th in net passing yards per play. They are also 25th in the league when it comes to getting off the field on third down.

Offensively, the Patriots are first in the NFL in yards per game, fifth in rushing yards per game, fifth in net passing yards, first in percentage intercepted per pass, first in first downs per game, third in third down efficiency, last in gross punting average, 31st in net punting and first in points.

As always, some stats need context and the punting stats are one. Zoltan Mesko certainly has had his share of regrettable punts but he is not the "worst" punter in the league as the net and gross averages would indicate. The Patriots' offensive potency means he has fewer opportunities to air it out from his own end than most punters. Evidence of this is that Mesko leads the AFC and is third in the NFL with 17 punts dropped inside the 20. Sunday, for example, four Mesko punts came from the Patriots 45 or further meaning a boomed punt would be an automatic touchback.

Other individual stats: Wes Welker leads the NFL in receiving yards with 688. He's second in YAC with 323 (Percy Harvin, 427). He leads the NFL in receptions with 54.

Welker is tied for third in targets with 74 (Larry Fitzgerald). Welker's 11 catches that result in third down conversions is one off the lead. Welker leads the NFL with 17 third-down receptions.

Brandon Lloyd is eighth in targets with 65. Lloyd's caught 35 of the passes his way.

Jerod Mayo leads the NFL with 71 tackles.

Devin McCourty is two off the NFL lead in passes defensed with nine.

Brady's completing 59.7 percent of his 4th quarter passes (40-67), His fourth quarter rating is 91.6 which is 12th.

Stevan Ridley leads the NFL with 43 first downs.

Finally, Stephen Gostkowski is second in the NFL in scoring among kickers (71 points) and is second in the NFL with 25 kickoffs than go for touchbacks.

Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

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Speed to burn: Cooks, Brady team up to form most productive deep-ball combo

The first came in the second quarter, when Brandin Cooks turned on afterburners to beat a Raiders double team and glide underneath a Tom Brady heave for 52 yards. The second came in the third quarter, on the third play from scrimmage of the second half, when Cooks faked an out-route, jetted past rookie corner Obi Melifonwu, and sped into the end zone to make the score 24-0. 

Both deep completions in New England's 33-8 win over Oakland just added to cumulative effect that Cooks has had on the Patriots offense since arriving before the season to become their top deep threat. 

Paired with Brady, Cooks has actually become the most productive deep threat in the NFL. 

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According to Pro Football Focus, Cooks leads all receivers with 431 yards on deep passes (throws that travel 20 yards or more down the field). In second place is Houston's DeAndre Hopkins with 313 yards. 

And Brady, who has long been more effective in the short-to-intermediate range than he has been deep, is now among the league leaders in creating explosive plays from the quarterback position. The Patriots are third in the NFL with 41 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and they are tied for second with nine plays of 40 yards or more. 

"You're always trying to work on that," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan Show of his team's deep passing game. "It's not one particular year [you work on it]. I think that's been a concerted effort by our entire offense, trying to make more explosive plays in the pass game. 

"Sometimes your offense is built differently. We actually have some guys now that can really get down the field so that becomes more of a point of emphasis. The way Brandin runs, the way that Chris Hogan runs, the way that Phillip Dorsett runs, they're very fast. You need to be able to take advantage of their skill set . . . 

"When we had David Patten we were throwing it deep. I mean, but David Patten didn't run a lot of short routes. I would say Brandin Cooks, in general, he doesn't run a lot of short routes. Everyone has a different role. If we can get by you, I think that's a good place to throw the ball. if we can't, we gotta figure out ways to throw it underneath and different weeks are going to call for different things based on the strengths of the defenses we're playing, too."

A week before beating the Raiders, against the Broncos and their talented corners, the Patriots had less luck pushing the ball down the field -- though they tried to hit Cooks deep multiple times. In Mexico City, Cooks matched up with a weaker secondary, and he wasn't at all slowed by the altitude, catching six passes in all for 149 yards and a score. 

Per PFF, Cooks has seen almost one third of his targets (30 percent) come on deep passes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the league. He's caught all 11 of his catchable deep passes, three of them accounting for scores.

"Obviously when you're throwing the ball 50-60 yards down the field," Brady said, "your chances of completion go down, but if you hit it, it ends up being a very explosive plays and you can change a lot of field position and get a defense really on their heels if they have to defend every blade of grass on the field." 

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Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Belichick remembers Glenn: 'A good person with good intentions'

Terry Glenn, the Patriots' top draft pick in 1996, died early Monday morning in a one-car accident in Irving, Texas. He was 43. 

Bill Belichick coached Glenn as an assistant with the Patriots during Glenn's rookie season. He was later Glenn's head coach in 2000 and 2001. Belichick traded Glenn to the Packers before the 2002 season after a tumultuous run in New England that involved legal trouble, injuries and clashes with the coaching staff.

During a conference call with reporters soon after the news of Glenn's death was published, Belichick remembered Glenn for his natural physical ability and "a good heart."

"I was pretty close with Terry," Belichick said, "and his rookie season was my first year here in '96, and so I had a lot of interaction with him and other people that were involved in his life and his upbringing separate from the Patriots. Terry's a very smart individual. Had a lot of, obviously, a lot of physical skill and talent. Could do a lot of things on the football field very naturally. And I think he was deep down inside a good person with good intentions and, you know, a good heart. Obviously it's very unfortunate. Very unfortunate passing. I mean, it's a sad day. Sad news."

According to reports, Glenn was with his fiancee at the time of the accident. She's being treated at a local hospital for unspecified injuries.