You don’t need stats to tell you that something has been off with the Patriots this season. Although they have a dominant defense, their offense has often gone AWOL, and is one of the main reasons the Patriots just lost two in a row.
The Patriots face the Bengals on Sunday as they look to avoid losing three games in a row.
Here’s a good stat: the Patriots haven’t lost three games in a row since 2002. If they lose on Sunday, panic might set in.
I’m no scientist, but I know analytics. And the Patriots are an analytical mess this season. At least, in Patriots standards.
1. Tom Brady, clean and pressured normalized EPA values and seasonal ranks, 2010-2019, explains why Brady and the Patriots have been so ineffective on early downs.
For more on EPA: Advanced Football Analytics
It’s clear that Tom Brady has regressed, but it might be worse than what we’ve seen. His EPA went from 1 while pressured in 2017 to 31 in 2019. That is not good.
When you look at Brady, 42 years old, and how he fits into this offense, he simply needs time to throw. He can’t get the ball out as quick as he used to. The Patriots offensive-line can’t do much when the Patriots receivers don’t get open.
From Advanced Football Analytics:
Suppose the offense has a 1st and 10 at midfield. This situation is worth +2.0 EP. A 5-yard gain would set up a 2nd and 5 from the 45, which corresponds to a +2.1 EP. Therefore, that 5-yard gain in that particular situation represents a +0.1 gain in EP. This gain is called Expected Points Added (EPA). Likewise, a 5-yard loss on 1st down at midfield would create a 2nd and 15 from the offense’s own 45. That situation is worth +1.2 EP, representing a net difference of -0.8 EPA.
Now that you somewhat understand what EPA means, you can see how much Brady has been put in early down trouble this season. That Patriots have a 37.4 third down efficiency, which explains the lackluster EPA. If the Patriots and Tom Brady can get themselves out of early down trouble, they can start to get back on track as an offense.
Brady is 24th in red zone passing. Getting into early-down trouble in the red zone has crushed the Patriots this season. That won’t get it done, even with a defense as good as the Patriots have. If Brady and the offense can correct these errors, look for them to break out against the Bengals.
2. Brady shouldn’t take all the blame. At the end of the day, his receivers haven’t been getting open, especially when he’s pressured. Take a look at this graph from PFF’s Kevin Cole
Bill Belichick going and getting Mohamed Sanu surprised a lot of people, but looking at the core that they had, it was clear that they needed an upgrade.
But, it’s clear something is still off. Sanu has battled injuries, which has left young receivers to get more reps then expected. One of them, N’Keal Harry, has been a positive for the offense, and someone I expect to get a big game against Cincy, but he’s still just a developing receiver that you can’t solely rely on.
The Patriots offense surely needs to get it together before the postseason. One thing we do know, it was business as usual in Foxboro this week as they look to figure things out.
Patriots @ Bengals 1PM Sunday.