Commentary

Pats' stats even better than you think

Beyond Brady's streak, big numbers making this a record-breaking season

Updated: January 7, 2011, 2:33 PM ET
By Jeremy Lundblad | ESPNBoston.com

With a prolific and mistake-free offense, the New England Patriots offered up some fascinating numbers during the regular season.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Stew Milne/US PresswireTom Brady's 335 consecutive passes without an interception isn't his only eye-opening feat this season.

While waiting to see who they'll face next week, let's empty out the statistical notebook for some of the more obscure stats.

Fun With Brady's Streak

By now, everyone who follows the Patriots knows about the streak. Tom Brady has thrown 335 consecutive passes without an interception, breaking Bernie Kosar's NFL record.

So let's dig a little deeper and see what else can be learned from the streak.

Brady's last interception was a Hail Mary at the end of regulation against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 17. Since that date, there have been 331 interceptions thrown in the NFL. In all, 60 different quarterbacks have tossed a pick. So has Maurice Jones-Drew in his lone attempt on the season. The Manning brothers accounted for 32 interceptions (Eli 17, Peyton 15) during that span.

On the defensive end, the Patriots have 18 interceptions since that date, tied with the Cowboys for the most in the NFL. Nine different Patriots have picked off a ball since Brady's interception, led by Devin McCourty, who has all seven of his picks since Oct. 17.

Since the start of December, Brady threw 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Over the last 60 years, no quarterback had thrown as many as 10 without getting picked in December/January. The closest were Steve Young (1987) and Aaron Brooks (2003) at nine.

Ironically, Brady's streak was preceded by four interceptions in his first five games, his most since 2005.

Thanks to his streak, Brady had only four interceptions in 492 attempts. That's a 0.8 interception percentage, the lowest in NFL history (min. 250 attempts). The previous best belonged to Steve DeBerg (0.8), who had four interceptions in 444 attempts in 1990. He also had 13 fewer touchdowns.

That brings about another question: Who is the anti-Brady? Who threw nothing but interceptions? The competition was tough, but here are three candidates:

-- Lindy Pearson, 1950 Lions: To be fair, he was a running back, but the former Oklahoma Sooner threw interceptions in all three of his pass attempts and was never asked to throw again.

-- Daryle Lamonica, 1974 Raiders: In his final season, the former AFL MVP threw only nine passes, but four were picked off.

-- Todd Collins, 2010 Bears: The Walpole native was picked off five times in 27 attempts this season. That's one more interception than Brady in 465 fewer attempts. It included his memorable four-interception start against the Panthers in which he finished with a 6.3 rating -- and a win.

More Brady Minutiae

With game broadcasts counting every Brady pass attempt, a few statistical gems may have snuck under the radar.

For instance, Brady threw 18 touchdown passes in the first half of games, and did not have a single interception. Over the last 20 years, the 2010 Patriots are the only team not to throw a first-half interception. In that span, no quarterback even had double-digit touchdown passes without a pick, according to STATS LLC. (In 1998, Neil O'Donnell finished with nine opening-half TDs and zero interceptions for the Bengals.)

Yet, this was not Brady's best season in the first half, at least based on passer rating. In 2007, Brady threw 32 first-half touchdowns and four interceptions on his way to a 123.5 rating. His 109.5 rating in the first half in 2010 is the best by any quarterback since then.

Could it be that Brady actually played better than his overall numbers suggest? Consider that two of his four interceptions came on passes thrown over 41 yards. In fact, Brady was 0-7 on such throws. If you eliminate those bombs, Brady had 36 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 114.2 passer rating. Back in 2007, Brady was 7-16 with five touchdowns on passes thrown over 41 yards. Since then? He's 2-21 with two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Of course, that means more short strikes, of which he is the master. On throws of 10 yards or fewer, Brady had 26 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Such efficiency may seem par for the course on short passes, but consider this: Brett Favre threw 10 interceptions (to only four touchdowns) on passes 10 yards or shorter.

The other stat that received a great deal of attention during the season was Brady's record 28-game winning streak in Foxborough. Of course, that's a regular-season streak, one that ignores last season's playoff loss to Baltimore.

That brings about an interesting note while waiting to see who the Patriots will face. In the last calendar year, Brady has thrown for three touchdowns and five interceptions in a pair of home games against the Ravens. Against everyone else, he has 17 touchdowns and no interceptions at home.

Another note of caution: According to STATS LLC, Brady has been near flawless since 2007 when the temperature sunk below 40 degrees. He's thrown 32 touchdowns to just two interceptions. However, that's just the regular season. In playoffs, he had seven touchdowns and six interceptions under those parameters.

The Undrafted Backfield Combo

BenJarvus Green-Ellis became the Patriots' first 1,000-yard rusher since Corey Dillon's franchise record 1,635 in 2004. Only the lowly Detroit Lions could match that drought without a true feature back. Combined with Danny Woodhead (547 yards), the Patriots excelled with a pair of undrafted running backs.

Success for an undrafted running back is certainly not unprecedented. Just look at Arian Foster, the NFL's leading rusher in 2010. Don't forget Priest Holmes, Willie Parker and Ryan Grant, all of whom have had significant success in recent years.

However, the Patriots had not previously struck the jackpot with undrafted running backs.

In fact, since the merger, no undrafted Patriot had exceeded 200 rushing yards until Green-Ellis in 2008.

Which bring about this obscure trivia question: Who was New England's most prolific undrafted running back prior to Green-Ellis?

The answer? In 1993, Corey Croom, in his first season out of Ball State, ran for 198 yards while backing up Leonard Russell.

Others have cycled through, including Derrick Cullors, Kyle Eckel and Jerry Ellison. But with 1,397 career yards, Green-Ellis has found more success than all of his undrafted predecessors in Foxborough.

In Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris, the Patriots entered the season with the three oldest running backs in the NFL apparently atop their depth chart. The fear that they would wear down was alarming for a team that struggled to hold leads in 2009.

However, the undrafted combo climbed that chart, and emerged as closers.

In the fourth quarter, Woodhead (5.6) and Green-Ellis (4.6) combined to average 4.8 yards-per-carry.

Apart from kneeldowns, the Patriots had only 22 negative rushing plays all season. According to STATS, that's the fewest since the 2002 Broncos had just 18.

Quick Hits

-- The Patriots ran 631 plays in two-tight-end sets in 2010  which is 173 more than the Chargers, who had the next most. Most notably, New England threw 99 more passes with two tight ends than any other team. Of their 56 offensive touchdowns, 37 came in these sets. Patriots tight ends combined for 18 touchdown catches, six more than any other team. And how about Rob Gronkowski? Inside the opponents' 40, the rookie was targeted 22 times. That resulted in 19 receptions and 10 touchdowns.

-- Is this the equivalent of a pitcher dominating after his 120th pitch? After throwing his 40th pass in a game, Brady was a perfect 7 for 7 with a touchdown, according to STATS.

-- Why should fans be rooting for the Chiefs? Under Belichick, the Patriots are 7-0 in the playoffs against teams they did not face in the regular season. Against teams they have faced (like the Ravens and Jets), New England is 7-4. But since their last Super Bowl win, the Patriots are just 2-4 in the postseason against repeat opponents.

Jeremy Lundblad is a researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He provides statistical analysis for ESPNBoston.com.

Jeremy Lundblad

ESPN Stats and Information

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