Want to beat the Patriots? Run don't throw

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
11:05
AM ET
ESPN researcher Matt Willis believes he has found a counterintuitive key to beating the New England Patriots.

You probably would think the best way is by exploiting their merciful pass defense, which is ranked 31st in the NFL.

But in breaking down their 10 victories and two losses, a successful run game seems to be a more significant means.

Willis writes on the ESPN Stats & Information blog:
What teams want to avoid is trying to out-pass the Patriots. New England's Tom Brady has a league-high 27 TD passes this season, against only five interceptions, the second-fewest in the NFL, behind only the run-happy Kansas City Chiefs.

Willis points out the only teams to defeat the Patriots -- the New York Jets in Week 2 and the Cleveland Browns in Week 9 -- averaged 187 yards on the ground and just 183 through the air.

The Jets and Browns ran an average of 38 times for 4.1 yards a carry.

In its victories, New England has allowed an average of 100 yards running and 295 yards passing. Rushing attempts fall by 14.5 per game compared to the defeats, although the average gain rises up to 4.8 yards.

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