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Turnovers & Short Passes - A Look at the 10 Patriots Games in the Rex Ryan Era



This is going to be something of a statistical lark, showing a slice of games that are all different between two teams that have changed a great deal. Some conversation on GGN had me looking at all the past Jet Rex Ryan vs Patriots games to see if I could identify a correlation between things like the kind of pressure the Jets put on Brady, in particular if hitting him had a consistent affect, or if controlling the running game produced wins. At first blush I saw neither. So I started breaking down the game statistics bit by bit a little further pushing to uncover consistencies and was a little surprised to see that the Jets lost games in a variety of ways. There was the additional pain that when looking for positives in the 10 games they were marred by a 5 game losing streak.

What I did find was that there were two combined correlations to Jets either winning or being very much in the game. Now take these for what they are, of course, just statistical sketches. There was a time not long ago when the Pats had one of the most potent offenses in the league, and the Jets had one of the best defenses in the league, so to some degree this may be apples and oranges comparisons. Both teams in those ways have changed a great deal this year. The Jet Defense isn't what it was, and neither is the Pats Offense. That being said, this is the only correlation pairing that I could find, so why not post it and have at it.

Perhaps most banal about this news is that much of it goes to common sense. We've heard endlessly about the importance of turnovers and one certainly wants to limit a great passer like Brady. That being said the correlation does shed some light on what needs to be done against the Pats this time, and opens questions as to whether it can be.

Because several of the Patriot wins were blowouts I coded these games in full red, below. These are games that show what happens when the barn doors open. In grey are games that the Jets lost, but the closeness of the games suggest that the right things were being done, just not enough. This presents 5 games lost (4 of them relative blowouts), and 5 games won or nearly won. I'm not minimizing that fact that a loss is a loss, rather I'm trying to isolate keys to potential victory, even if these keys seem obvious.

These are hand collected stats so there may be transcription errors.

Jets_how_to_beat_the_patriots_medium

via s17.postimg.org

The first thing that the chart shows is that when the Pats yards per catch breaks 10.0 (red dotted line) the Jets are in trouble. Every time this has happened it has produced a loss, with the exception of 1, the first game of 2010, and in that case the Pats turned the ball over 3 times to the Jets zero. This brings up to the 2nd correlation, turnovers. Jet turnovers are show in green, Patriot turnovers in blue. Losing the turnover battle has meant losing the game, and the one time we won the turnover battle but lost, the first game in 2011, we gave up yards per catch well over 10.

Also included is the Jets Pass Rush Productivity score (PRP), shown in slash pattern bars. Most striking perhaps is that none of these games had very high PRP scores. The PRP score is a formula that also weights QB hits and hurries, as well as sacks and talks to the efficiency of each pass rusher...are they coming free. From what I can tell from my own number crunching the average NFL team this year has a PRP of 8.3, the Jets of 7.9. The Jets hit neither number in any of these games. Despite the reputation as a big pass rush team, there have been no dominate pass rush productivity by at least this measure. The Pats know how to protect against the Jets. There has been pressure, the blitz has been sent but it has not been "the story". They have won when being more proficient in the pass rush, and lost as well. They have won when not being proficient at all. And some of the most productive pass rush days have been those where lots of yards per catch were given up.

Below is much of the same expressed just a little differently:

Jets_how_to_beat_the_patriots_part_2_medium

via s21.postimg.org

Here the turnover battle is shown in positive or negative (above the line, below the line) green as a net sum. And in addition to yards per catch (yellow), yards per attempt is also shown (light green). The purple dotted line shows that when the Jets hold the Patriots under 6.6 yards per attempt in passing they either win or are right there in the game where it can be won. Notably, in two of the last three losses the 6.6 yards per attempt mark was achieved, but the turnover battle was lost.

We all know that correlation is not causation, it is just a statistical picture to think about. We need to control the Patriots passing game to the degree that yards per catch stays under 10 and yards per attempt stays under 6.6, and not lose the turnover battle. Sounds reasonable enough.

What Does This Mean for Sunday?

Well, there are some things that may be pointing in our favor aside from the New England injuries. Despite the struggles in Pass Defense this year the Jets currently average the 8th best yards per attempt at 6.7 in the league, so all they have to do is play to their season average. Yards per attempt have been solid, and part of their bend, don't break approach. Also New England is struggling in the passing game. They are near the bottom of the league in yards per attempt at 6.2, so if they play to their average we find ourselves again in the statistical sweet spot, for whatever it is worth. The second correlation factor of not losing the turnover battle is a big one though. We already know that Geno is Jekyll & Hyde with turnovers and it can really get out of control...also, our defense has not been, or has it not really ever been good at producing turnovers in the Ryan era. So the these signs call for a managed Geno approach, but also one where he does not find himself needing to make plays to get back in the game - those that are calling for a run-heavy attack have some footing here. The difficulty is that the Jets have struggled in pass defense in two of the last 3 games, giving up over 10 yards vs Atlanta (12.2) and Pittsburgh (11.6), and we are dealing with Brady. If the Jets can keep the passing game in front of them, and play turnover free football at least this correlation pair suggests that the game should be winnable.

As mentioned, there may very well be other correlations or cues to winning, and it also could be that the teams of the early Rex years are just too different to make comparisons with. But it is always fun to hunt for these things and try to draw them out.

I will say that I did not look for Jet offensive correlations other than turnovers. And I was a little surprised to not find correlations in how well the Jets defended the run in terms of yards per carry. There was a correlation of the Jets winning or near-winning when the Pats ran the ball 42% of offensive plays or less (often in the 30s), but that seems like it would be connected to how the Pats may run more with big leads, and prefer to pass in closer games. It could vaguely suggest though that shutting down the Patriots' run game in terms of play selection has been a benefit.

What it really seems to boil down to is if Brady's pin-point passing can find a way to break off bigger plays, and if Geno can keep the turnovers down to a bare minimum.

Again, these were hand transcribed stats so there may be errors.

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