Super Bowl Preview Part 1; Afc Champions in Review

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2011 Regular Season

The Patriots had an up and down regular season in 2011. However, their record would not indicate that. They racked up 13 wins with 3 losses. They were 6-2 on the road with their two losses coming against the Buffalo Bills in week 3 and the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 8. They were 7-1 at home, with their lone loss coming against their Super Bowl opponents, the New York Giants in week 9.

They were ranked as the #1 offense in the AFC, and #2 in the NFL, during the regular season. They accrued 6,848 total yards of offense during the regular season.

Their quarterback, Tom Brady, finished second in the league with 5,235 yards through the air to compliment his 39 touchdown passes. He averaged a little over 317 yards per game. Brady put up a quarterback passer rating of 105.7 on the regular season. his touchdown to interception ratio was at 3.25 to 1 or 39/12.

On the ground the Patriots ran for a team total of 1,764 yards on 448 carries for a 4.0 yard per carry average. They scored a total of 18 touchdowns. They fumbled the football only 3 times the entire season, mostly due to the sure hands of Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis, who has never fumbled in his 4 year pro career with the Patriots. The Law Firm, as he is called, was the teams leading rusher, but only ran for 667 yards with a solid 11 touchdowns.They averaged 110.3 yards per game on the ground.

Their top 4 receivers during the regular season were Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Deion Branch. Two of their recievers set both NFL and franchise records during the regular season.

Wes Welker went for a team high, and franchise record in receiving yards with 1,569, breaking the former mark by Randy Moss. Welker also caught 122 balls becoming only the third player in NFL history along with Jerry Rice and Chris Carter to accomplish that 3 times in a career.

Rob Gronkowski set two NFL records during the regular season and broke one additional franchise record. Gronkowski shattered the all time NFL mark for both touchdowns by a tight end and receiving yards by a tight end. He hauled in 17 scores through the air along with 1,327 yards receiving. The former touchdown mark was help by both Vernon Davis, of the San Francisco 49ers, and Antonio Gates, of the San Diego Chargers with 13. The former receiving mark was held by Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow and was set at 1,287 yards.

Aaron Hernandez racked up 910 yards receiving. He also added 7 touchdowns including some late game heroics to help his team win vs. Dallas.

Deion Branch, one of Brady’s long standing favorite targets from Super Bowl Championship years past, racked up 702 yards. He added 5 touchdowns to his stat line. His season high was 129 yards receiving in week 2 against the San Diego Chargers.

The Patriots defense was much maligned during the regular season, but mostly for the wrong reasons. Many focused on the yardage they gave up, which had them ranked 31st in the league and the worst in the AFC. However, yardage does not tell the whole story.

The Patriots had 40 sacks, which was a pretty solid number. They also had 41 tackles for losses on the season. Additionally, they racked up 23 interceptions and took two back for touchdowns. They also forced 10 fumbles and scored 1 touchdown.

Their top tackler was Jerod Mayo, who racked up 95 solo tackles. Mayo also got 2 interceptions on the season along with 1 forced fumble. His most important interception came against the Redskins on the road, when he snagged one in the end zone to save a game winning touchdown by the opponents.

The Patriots top defensive back was Kyle Arrington, who nabbed 7 interceptions tying him for the league lead with several other players. Arrington added 88 tackles to his stat line along with 1 fumble recovery.

Their top defensive lineman were Vince Wilfork, Andre Carter, and Mark Anderson. Wilfork had an all around stat line that was impressive for a defensive tackle with 52 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and 1 touchdown. Carter was their most productive sack master with 10 three quarters of the way through the season, before he was placed on injured reserve with a season ending calf injury. Mark Anderson also added 10 sacks as well along with 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery.

The Patriots ended the regular season with an 8 game winning streak. They consecutively beat the New York Jets on the road, the Kansas City Chiefs at home, the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, the Indianapolis Colts at home, the Washington Redskins on the road, the Denver Broncos on the road, the Miami Dolphins at home, and the Buffalo Bills at home to finish out the regular season. They also finished with a +17 turnover differential, which was one of the best in the AFC.

2012 Post Season

With the regular season record of 13-3 the Patriots had secured the #1 seed in the AFC for the playoffs. That allowed them to control home field advantage throughout their playoff run, minus the Super Bowl of course. With that brought them a guaranteed two home games at Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Mass. It also afforded them a first round bye during Wild Card Weekend.

Divisional Round

The Patriots hosted the Denver Broncos in the divisional round match up on Saturday January 14, 2012. They defeated the Broncos in a route that was truly over by half time. The final score was 45-10.

In that game Tom Brady posted an NFL record with 5 first half touch downs. He and teammate Rob Gronkowski tied two more NFL all time marks. Brady ended the game with 6 touchdowns tying both Daryl Lamonica and Steve Young for the most touchdowns in a playoff game. Gronkowski tied Dave Casper for the most receiving touchdowns in a single playoff game with 3.

The Patriots put forth an amazing defensive effort in that game. For a team that had been ranked 31st in the league during the regular season, they racked up an eye popping 14 plays for negative yardage. This is an unheard of stat in any game, let alone a playoff game.

AFC Championship

The Patriots hosted the #2 seed Baltimore Ravens for the AFC Championship match up. This game turned out to be an exciting finish. The game was either tied or changed leads 7 different times.The ending had fans of both squads holding their breaths. Followed by either complete shock and misery or complete elation and joy.

To the Surprise of many, the Patriots defense once again put forth a solid performance defensively. The Pats racked up 3 sacks on the afternoon. They also hauled in 1 interception. Additionally, they forced a fumble. They gave up 20 points on the afternoon, a number that is below the league average. Not bad for a squad that was billed as the worst defense in the league most of the season and probably the worst defense Belichick has had during his tenure as Patriots head coach. Yet, they seemed to show up when it mattered most.

Tom Brady, although his stat line wasn’t that great, provided another amazing 4th quarter comeback drive that saw him score with his legs rather than with his arm. This, and a missed field goal by Cundiff in the closing seconds propelled the Patriots to their 5th AFC title in the past 11 years. Quite an amazing accomplishment when you think about a league that prides itself as being built on parody.

FINAL TOTAL AFC PLAYOFF STAT LINES

Games Played: 2

Offense: first downs 56 third down conversions 8/17 yards total 839 rushing yards242 passing yards 597 completions 48/70–68% touchdowns 8 field goals 4/4 total points 68

Defense: first downs allowed 34 third down conversions against 16/35 offensive yards allowed 650 rushing yards 260 passing yards 390 completions against 31/62–50% sacks 8 interceptions 1

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