Numbers challenge notion Patriots injury luck was off-the-charts in 2018

Numbers challenge notion Patriots injury luck was off-the-charts in 2018

Over and over again, the Patriots had every one of their players on the 53-man roster out at practice. Day after day. Late in the season.

Their run of good health was bordering on baffling.

Leading up to the AFC Championship Game with the Chiefs, the Patriots consistently had perfect attendance on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. Only one player, Deatrich Wise, was listed on the injury report. And even he was a full participant.

Leading up to the Super Bowl, Malcom Brown dealt with a calf issue. Dont'a Hightower dealt with an illness. Both were full participants by Friday. There was not another Patriots player who showed up on the Super Bowl week injury report.

Most notably, Bill Belichick's most important players were available. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, James White, Sony Michel, the entire starting offensive line, Trey Flowers, Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Kyle Van Noy, Hightower...all were good to go for the most important games of the season. 

What if I told you, though, that the Patriots actually lost more games to injury in 2018 than they did in 2017? 

Hard to believe, right? Could it be possible that in 2017 -- a year in which Julian Edelman, Hightower and Marcus Cannon all ended up on injured reserve -- the Patriots had better injury luck than in 2018?

That's how Football Outsiders sees it. 

The site has released its "Adjusted Games Lost" figures for 2018, which showed the Patriots were the 18th-healthiest team in the league during their Super Bowl run. New England's adjusted games lost figure sat at 78.6 for the season, an uptick of more than 17 games lost from when they had an adjusted games lost number of 61.3 in 2017. 

OK, so what are "adjusted games lost," exactly? 

From Football Outsiders: 

"We have collected the data from the NFL's weekly injury reports for every season since 2002. This allows us to measure not just who played and who didn't, but who was able to play with injuries, even if those injuries meant the player was at something less than 100 percent. That's why we call this metric adjusted games lost -- in addition to players who missed games entirely, we also count those who hit the field after appearing on the injury report at an adjusted rate. Further, we track whether the injured player was a starter, a situational reserve, or simply bottom-of-the-roster fodder. Obviously, an injury to a starting tackle is more important than one to a guy who only plays on special teams."

(You can read "Part 1" of Football Outsiders' adjusted games lost piece here. There are several interesting nuggets therein, including the fact that 13 (!) NFL players who were listed as "out" going into a game last season actually played. There's also a note about how no team listed more players as "questionable" last year than the Patriots. Fifty-nine of their 85 questionable players played.)

How did Football Outsiders arrive at 78.6 adjusted games lost for the Patriots, then? They broke things down by position in "Part 2" of their adjusted games lost piece. 

According to the site, the Patriots were hit hardest along the offensive line. That makes sense, if Isaiah Wynn was projected to serve in a significant role. Wynn, of course, was lost for the season when he tore his Achilles during a preseason game. Cannon missed three games to injury, and Shaq Mason missed two. In all, Football Outsiders had the Patriots missing 22.0 games along their offensive line due to injury. Having Trent Brown fill in and play 16 games -- he might've beat Wynn for the starting job even if Wynn had been healthy -- clearly helped make up for losses suffered there.

The Patriots were then hardest hit by injuries to their defensive backs, per Football Outsiders. Projected starter Eric Rowe played only four games in 2018. That was the biggie. Patrick Chung missed a game. Duke Dawson, a second-round pick, didn't play at all, which may have led to the 17.7 games lost number Football Outsiders settled on. 

At linebacker the Patriots were listed as having 14.6 adjusted games lost to injury thanks primarily, it seems, to rookie Ja'Whaun Bentley landing on injured reserve. 

Running back (11.4 adjusted games lost) was another problem area for the Patriots, who lost Jeremy Hill for the season in Week 1 and saw Michel and Rex Burkhead go down with injuries for stretches of the year.

They're all interesting numbers to parse through. In the end, you may come to the conclusion that Patriots success is more dictated by the quality of the players injured rather than the quantity of players who've gone down. 

Belichick's team was in the bottom half of the league in terms of "adjusted games lost" last year, but its core was on the field when it mattered. The result? They walked away from the wreckage with their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

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Patriots' Tom Brady gives strong Hall of Fame endorsement for this Steelers legend

Patriots' Tom Brady gives strong Hall of Fame endorsement for this Steelers legend

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has played against many talented safeties in his 20-year NFL career, and few were better at the position than Pittsburgh Steelers legend Troy Polamalu.

Polamalu is among the finalists for the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. This is his first year on the ballot. The final vote will take place Saturday before Super Bowl LIV, and five of the 15 finalists will be selected for enshrinement.

Brady, who played against Polamalu six times, recently gave the safety a strong Hall of Fame endorsement in a statement released by the Steelers.

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“One key to success for a quarterback is to study a lot of film in order to understand defensive tendencies and know how the defense will try to defend everything you are trying to do as an offense," Brady said. "But that never worked against Troy. He was one of the most instinctive and disruptive players I have ever played against.

"Outside of his incredible athleticism, his greatest skill was his unpredictability. You could never quite get a bead on what he was doing, yet he was always around the ball. Troy was just a playmaker who you had to account for on every play. It was amazing to watch film on him and to try to understand how we knew where to be and when. If you wanted to find Troy, you just looked for where the ball was going and you would always find him.”

This type of praise from the NFL's greatest quarterback should bolster Polamalu's Hall of Fame case, which, even without Brady's comments, already was pretty strong.

Polamalu played 12 years for the Steelers, during which he appeared in 158 games and tallied 32 interceptions, 107 passes defensed, 783 tackles, 14 forced fumbles (seven recoveries), 12 sacks and three touchdowns. He also was a key member of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl-winning teams in 2005 and 2008.

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Patriots owner Robert Kraft offers perspective on Kobe Bryant's death

Patriots owner Robert Kraft offers perspective on Kobe Bryant's death

Robert Kraft was just miles away from Kobe Bryant when the Los Angeles Lakers legend was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday.

The New England Patriots owner was in Los Angeles to attend the 2020 GRAMMY Awards at the Staples Center, which Bryant called home for 20 NBA seasons.

Shortly after news broke that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif., Kraft offered his thoughts from the red carpet of the GRAMMYs.

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"I'm just shocked," Kraft told CBS-2 in Los Angeles. "It makes us all realize how we can’t take anything for granted. Make sure you give a special hug and kiss to everyone who's dear to you.

"Seeing his beautiful little beloved daughter, (who) is 13, and I know the pride he took in her. Here we are at Kobe’s home in the Staples Center. I had a chance to see him in one of his last games here and he was such a gentleman and great competitor."

Kraft shared a moment with Bryant after that game and in 2018 invited the Lakers star to the Patriots' organized team activities.

Kraft said he received texts and emails from roughly 50 people in the wake of Bryant's death, which prompted the Patriots owner to share a moment of reflection.

"For those of us who are privileged to wake up every day in good health and you have good family around you: Make sure you give them a special hug and kiss today," Kraft said.

" ... Everyone should just step back and think and count their blessings."

Several of Kraft's Patriots players, including quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Julian Edelman, shared similar sentiments on social media after Bryant's death.