Patriots

Patriots-Bills Preview from Tom E. Curran: A lot on Brady

Patriots

The Patriots have had 324 second-down plays this season. Of those, 208 are second-and-7 or more (64 percent). They’ve been in second-and-10 (or worse) 125 times (38 percent of the time). Their 64 passes on second-and-10 are the highest in the league.

They are forever in second-and-long. Why? Because they aren’t great on first down.

Third down?

The Patriots have run more third down plays than anyone in the league (208). Only Philly (200), Detroit (197), Tampa and Jacksonville (192) are close.

Of the 208 third downs, 141 are third-and-5 or more (68 percent).

Ranking by total pass attempts, New England is second in third-and-5 and third-and-6 (20 and 17 throws each), first in third-and-7 (22), 26th in third-and-8 (8), seventh in third-and-9 (10) and first in third-and-10 (23). They’ve also had 26 more pass plays on third-and-11-plus. That’s 126 throws on third-and-5-plus.

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So, they are bad enough on first down to keep getting stuck in second-and-long. And they’re bad enough on second down that they wind up in third-and-long almost 70 percent of the time.

And how has the calcified, walking corpse wearing No. 12 done this season when faced with third-and-5 with nobody other than Julian Edelman and James White to consistently lean on? The Patriots converted 43 of the throws into first downs (34 percent).

By comparison, Lamar Jackson’s been in third-and-5-plus just 77 times and has converted 27 times (35 percent). Deshaun Watson? He’s 27 for 83 (32 percent). Aaron Rodgers is 32 for 103 (31 percent). Dak is 33 for 85 (38 percent) and Jimmy G. is 38 for 93 (40 percent).

The Patriots offense is constantly in high-leverage situations. They aren’t equipped for it with their skeleton crew of receivers. Yet, when you look at those numbers, you see just how effective Brady still is despite how often it all falls on him. It will likely all fall on him again Saturday against a very good Bills defense, the best they’ve seen in weeks. What Brady can conjure up will determine whether the Patriots win or lose.