This season’s Patriot’s team is not like the ones seen in the past. With all of the new receivers, they have struggled passing the ball and running the no-huddle offense. The strength of the Patriots offense, contrary to the past, is in the running game and the offensive line.
James Terry, a writer for the blog Beantown Shakedown believes “the Patriots are a lot stronger when they have a balanced attack.” His point is that when the Patriots throw more than 40 passes per game, they are 2-2, and they are 5-1 when they throw less than 40.
This success can also be graphed to show why this may be the case. Successfulness in the NFL can be measured by point per game differential (see power rankings and compare this to the PPG differential leaders— they are very similar) between the Patriots and their opponents. By graphing how many times the Patriots run and pass the ball each game, it is possible to see how a balanced offense leads to success.
The more space in between the red and blue lines indicate a larger proportion between passing and running the ball. When these lines are closest, the green line (PPG Differential) is higher up the graph. This indicates that when the Patriots choose to run the ball just about as much as they pass, they are at their best.
According to UMaine Football offensive lineman Joe Hook, there are many reasons for this. When teams run the ball, they are more likely to pick up positive yards. When a team passes, they average more yards per play, but because Brady’s completion percentage is well below his career average, running the ball on early downs has been a better option for the Patriots.
Many will say this data is skewed because when a team is winning, they tend to run the ball more. This is true, but to account for this, I added first downs to the second graph. First downs are a more objective statistic that truly shows offensive efficiency.
Notice how the rush attempts mirrors the lines measuring success. When rush attempts increase, first downs and points per game differential increase see first graph to compare this with the amount of pass attempts). Hook says this is because when the Patriots run the ball on early downs, they are able to pick up positive yards and ensure they do not have a third and long (which has been the Patriots demise this season), increasing the chance of them getting a first down.
Hook also explains other benefits of running the ball. According to him, running the ball helps balance the offense, opens up the field for the passing game, and keep the defense guessing. He also mentions one of the most important things about running the ball helps teams success because it helps run out the clock. When the Patriots run, it ensures their offense is on the field longer, which makes it so the other teams offense is on the field less—thus making them less likely to score. This according to Hook helps the defense tremendously.
My final graph shows one more thing. When the Patriots run the ball with a high yards per carry average, it is the most effective.
The blue line shows rush yards, which follows the pattern of PPG differential perfectly.
Overall, this data shows when the Patriots balance the run and the pass game, it helps keep their offense on the field which helps score points and prevent opponents from scoring. This has remained consistent throughout the season. The passing game alone cannot get it done this year unless Brady is completing over 60 percent of his passes. And the more they throw, the less likely this is going to happen. As Patriots writer Andy Hart said, “it’s hard to argue that the Ridley-led running game shouldn’t get a bigger chance to shoulder the load behind a veteran offensive line,” thus, the Patriots should continue to maximize success by balancing their offensive attack.