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Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Patriots Are Experts in Ball Security

The New England Patriots have clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC, giving them home field advantage and a first-round bye.  With the Falcons yet to have played on Sunday, the Pats own the NFL’s best record (13-2) after demolishing the Bills.  Plenty of people thought New England would be good, but there aren’t many who thought they’d be this good.  The secret?  Protecting the football.

The Patriots came into Sunday’s game against Buffalo leading the NFL with a plus-20 turnover differential.  They added seven turnovers to that total and went yet another game without committing one of their own.  That means New England now has a whopping plus-27 turnover differential and has not turned the ball over since a week nine loss to the Browns.

The NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season is 12.  New England has committed a league-low 9 this season.  The only way they won’t set the record is if Bill Belichick decides to rest Brady next week against the Dolphins, which he has not been known to do.  The Patriots’ franchise record for fewest turnovers in a season is 17, which they will obviously shatter.

Most of the credit for the Patriots’ ability to prevent turnovers will be given to Tom Brady — as it should be.  He’s thrown 34 touchdown passes and only four interceptions in what has become an MVP-caliber season.  If you don’t appreciate the ridiculousness of that stat, there’s something wrong with you.  Sure, some balls have been batted and landed in the right spots and defensive backs have dropped some easy interceptions, but attempting 300+ passes without an interception is unheard of — at any level of football.  No. 12 is obviously locked in and has no problem with the Randy Moss trade.

Let’s not give the best player in the league all the credit, however.  The running back duo of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead has carried the ball 304 times this year and lost zero fumbles.  That’s 0, for those of you who need it written out both ways.  That’s almost as impressive as what Brady has been able to do throwing the ball.

Of course, the level of discipline the entire team has shown is a testament to Belichick’s coaching style.  The mind-boggling streaks and statistics are not a coincidence.  All week long, New England’s coach stresses ball security.  Most coaches in the NFL do the same, but it seems to have sunk in more in Foxboro.  The Patriots are bound to turn the ball over at some point, but if they can be nearly as efficient protecting the ball during the postseason as they have been during the regular season, they’ll be the toughest out in the playoffs.

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