Stats & Info: NFL Playoffs

Postseason struggles for Brady, Belichick

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
1:30
PM ET

Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsTom Brady and Bill Belichick are one of the most successful quarterback-head coach duos in NFL history. But they have not had the same success in recent years.
Next year will be the 10th season since the Patriots’ run of three Super Bowl wins in four seasons. Their last Super Bowl-winning campaign came in 2004.

What loss means for Tom Brady
Tom Brady is .500 (8-8) in postseason games since New England's loss in the 2005 divisional playoffs at Denver. Before that game, Brady was a perfect 10-0, which included winning three Super Bowls.

In his postseason career, Tom Brady has a 2-4 record when facing a Manning as the opposing QB and a 16-4 record against all other starting quarterbacks.

But is it all on Brady? Consider that in Brady's first 10 playoff games (when the Patriots were 10-0), the defense allowed an average of 15.8 points per game and got a sack every 13.2 dropbacks.

In his past 16 playoff games, the defense has allowed an average of 22.9 points per game and got a sack every 18.2 dropbacks.

The Patriots have allowed 20 or more points in six straight playoff games.

But even with all of the negative trends, it's important to remember that Brady still owns the record for most postseason wins by a QB in NFL history. The next-closest active quarterback is Peyton Manning with 11.

Bill Belichick's successes and failures
Since New England’s Super Bowl loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots' playoff performance has fallen short of their lofty regular-season standard.

In the past six seasons, the Patriots have a .750 winning percentage in the regular season compared to a .444 winning percentage in the postseason.

Bill Belichick’s 19 postseason wins as a head coach are one shy of tying Tom Landry for most all time. He could have arrived there sooner, however; the Patriots have lost six of their past 10 postseason games.

Defense is what Belichick is known for, and the defense is what failed them against the Broncos on Sunday.

New England gave up 507 yards to the Broncos, the most they've allowed in a game -- regular season or postseason -- under Belichick.

The Patriots became one of six teams since the AFL-NFL merger to lose consecutive AFC Championship Games, and just the second in the past 25 years. The division rival Jets in 2009 and 2010 were the last to do so.

Of those six teams, only one -- the Raiders -- made the AFC Championship Game the next season. And that Raiders team went on to win not just the AFC Championship but the Super Bowl too.

4 reasons why Matt Ryan is ready to win

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
9:51
AM ET

Dale Zanine/USA TODAYMatt Ryan is still looking for his first career playoff win.
Matt Ryan is 0-3 in his playoff career and is looking to avoid becoming the first quarterback since the merger to lose his first four postseason starts.

Ryan has never thrown for 200 yards in a playoff game, and his 28.3 Total QBR in the postseason is second-worst among quarterbacks with at least two playoff starts since 2008 (Andy Dalton, 16.6 Total QBR).

Despite his struggles, Ryan has made big strides this past season that could indicate he’s ready for his first playoff win. Below are four factors that show how Ryan has improved:

2-MINUTE DRILL

The Atlanta Falcons were 7-2 in games decided by eight points or fewer this season and Ryan’s clutch play late in games was a big reason why.
In Week 4 against the Panthers, Ryan led the Falcons on a 77-yard game-winning drive with under a minute to play.

Ryan had struggled in two-minute drill situations in years past. Entering 2012, Ryan had 11 interceptions and had never completed more than 51 percent of his passes in a season in the final two minutes of either half.

In the same situations this season, Ryan had the second-best completion percentage (69 percent) and the most attempts (65) without an interception.

DOWNFIELD PASSING

Entering this season, Ryan was a league-average passer when throwing more than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. From 2008 to 2011, Ryan completed 47 percent of those attempts (37 percent in the postseason) and cracked 50 percent in just one season, his rookie year of 2008.

This season Ryan has found his touch, completing 56 percent of his attempts more than 10 yards downfield, fourth-best in the NFL.

SCREEN GAME

One big addition to the Falcons offense this season has been the screen pass.
Ryan has attempted 67 screen passes this season, second-most in the NFL. In 2010 and 2011, Ryan attempted 36 total screens, none in the postseason.

Not only have the Falcons been attempting more screens, they have also gotten a lot out of them.

The Falcons have averaged 7.2 yards per screen pass this season (seventh) and have the most touchdowns on such plays.

THE FALCONS “BIG 3”

Although Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez all played for the Falcons last season, the trio has become even more important for Ryan this season.

The Falcons were one of three teams this season to have a trio of receivers finish with 100-plus targets (White 138, Jones 126, Gonzalez 123).

When all three were on field together this season, Ryan threw an interception once every 62 pass attempts. When at least one of the three was off the field, Ryan threw an interception once every 20 attempts.

Pressure constant in Packers-49ers rematch

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
6:45
PM ET

Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAYAaron Rodgers and the Packers fell to the 49ers in Week 1, but both offenses will look much different this time around.
The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-22 in Week 1, with the 49ers leading by as many 16 points in the game. However, each team has gone through personnel changes that could lead to a different outcome this time around.

For the 49ers, the most notable change is at the quarterback position, where Colin Kaepernick has supplanted Alex Smith as the starter. Smith was highly effective against the Packers in Week 1, specifically against added pressure.

The Packers sent five or more pass rushers at the league’s fourth-highest rate this season (40 percent), and did so 46 percent of the time against the 49ers.

Although Smith was sacked three times against such pressure in Week 1, he also completed 11 of his 12 passes for 141 yards and eight first downs.

On the season, Smith completed 72.6 percent of his attempts against added pressure, best in the NFL.

Kaepernick should expect a similar defensive strategy from the Packers in the Divisional Playoffs. No quarterback faced extra rushers on a higher percentage of dropbacks than Kaepernick did this season (39 percent) and his 56.6 completion percentage against those rushes ranked 20th in the NFL.

For the Packers, the biggest change will be at running back.

In Week 1, the Packers ran 61 offensive plays and 31 of those came without a running back on field. Only seven teams had more than 31 plays without a running back all season long.

With their backs frequently on the bench, the Packers dropped back to pass 85 percent of the time (dropbacks include sacks and scrambles), their highest rate in a game since Aaron Rodgers took over as starter in 2008.

The Packers best success running in Week 1 came from Rodgers scrambling (five scrambles, 27 yards). Then starting running back Cedric Benson ran nine times for 18 yards, all on first down.

The emergence of DuJuan Harris in recent weeks should lead to a different offensive approach for the Packers against the 49ers.

Six Packers running backs had at least 25 runs between the tackles this season and none was more successful than Harris.

Including the playoffs, Harris has averaged a team-high 4.3 yards per rush between the tackles this season. Benson gained only 17 yards on eight rushes between the tackles in Week 1.

Packers running backs were also targeted nine times in the Wild Card round (six to Harris), the second time this season Packers backs had at least that many targets. No Packers running back had a target in Week 1.

Despite the recent success, however, Rodgers thrived without a running back on field in Week 1, going 21-of-28 for 229 yards (9-of-16, 74 yards with a back on field).

Time will tell how things play out on Saturday, but the offenses will certainly look different than they did in September.

Seahawks-Falcons: Eight notes to know

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
8:04
PM ET
The NFC Divisional round continues on Sunday at 1 ET when the No. 1 seed Atlanta Falcons host the Seattle Seahawks, fresh off their win over the Redskins in the Wild Card round.

Here are eight notes, nuggets and numbers you need to know heading into the matchup:

FIRST-YEAR PHENOM
With Seattle’s win over the Redskins in the Wild Card round, Russell Wilson became just the sixth rookie quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game. Of the previous five, only Mark Sanchez (2009) and Joe Flacco (2008) were able to win a second playoff game that season.

HOME SWEET HOME
Including the postseason, Matt Ryan is 33-6 in his career at home as a starter. The Patriots (36) and the Ravens (35) are the only teams in the NFL with more home wins since he entered the league in 2008.

No. 1 CURSE?
The Falcons earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs for the second time in franchise history (also 2010), but that hasn’t been a good thing in recent years. The NFC’s No. 1 seed has lost in the Divisional round in four of the last five seasons after going a perfect 17-0 in the Divisional round between 1990 and 2006.

ROAD WARRIOR
Russell Wilson has six touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last four road games including one in Seattle’s Wild Card win over the Redskins (3-1 W-L). Wilson had four touchdowns and eight interceptions in his first five games on the road (1-4 W-L).

NO-FLY ZONE
The Falcons have lost four straight playoff games since defeating the Rams in the 2004 Divisional round and are just 6-11 in the postseason all-time. Only the Bengals (.313) have a lower winning percentage than the Falcons (.353) in NFL playoff history.

SERIES SWITCH
The Falcons have won three straight games against the Seahawks after going 2-8 in the first 10 meetings between teams all-time. Sunday will be the first meeting in Atlanta since the 2007 regular season finale on December 30, 2007, a game won by the Falcons, 44-41.

BEAST MODE CLIMBING RECORD BOOKS

Marshawn Lynch tied a Seahawks postseason record with 132 rushing yards in the Wild Card round against the Redskins. It was his fifth straight 100-yard game and 11th such game of the season, one shy of Shaun Alexander’s single-season franchise mark of 12 set in 2005. That season, the Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl before falling to the Steelers.

PLAYOFF PREDICAMENT
Since Mike Smith and Matt Ryan joined the team in 2008, the Falcons have the NFL’s second-best record in the regular season (56-24) but are 0-3 in the playoffs. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that with a loss Sunday, Matt Ryan will join Y.A. Tittle as the only QBs in NFL history to lose each of their first four postseason starts.

Packers-49ers: Eight notes to know

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
6:22
PM ET
The NFC Divisional round begins on Saturday at 8 ET when the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers host the Green Packers, who knocked off the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card round.

Here are eight notes, nuggets and numbers you need to know heading into the matchup:

RIVALRY RENEWED
The 49ers and Packers have met on five previous occasions in the postseason with Green Bay winning four of them. The lone win by San Francisco came in the 1998 Wild Card Playoffs on Terrell Owens’ game-winning touchdown grab with three seconds remaining. The Packers won the most recent meeting in the 2001 Wild Card Playoffs.

HOME SWEET HOME
The 49ers earned a chance to play at home in the Divisional round thanks to finishing with the second-best record in the NFC this season and that bodes well… sort of. At 19-9, San Francisco is tied for the second-most home playoff wins all-time but has never reached the Super Bowl as the No. 2 seed.

RODGERS IS ROLLING
Aaron Rodgers comes into the weekend having thrown 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the last four games including at least one touchdown pass in each of those contests. The four straight games with at least one touchdown and no interceptions are tied for the longest such streak of his career.

KAEPERNICK FINISHING STRONG
Colin Kaepernick threw for a career-high 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 49ers’ win over the Cardinals in Week 17. The performance helped Kaepernick finish the year with a 76.8 Total QBR, trailing only Peyton Manning (84.1) and Tom Brady (77.1) among all qualified players during the regular season.

POSTSEASON PRODUCTION
The Packers improved to 30-17 in the postseason all-time with their win over the Vikings in the Wild Card round. Their .638 win percentage in the playoffs is the best by any franchise in NFL history.

IT’S BEEN A WHILE
The 49ers defeated the Packers 30-22 in Week 1 of this season, snapping Green Bay’s eight-game winning streak in the series. San Francisco has not won consecutive meetings with the Packers since winning three straight between 1981 and 1987.

CLOSE-GAME CONCERNS
Including the playoffs, the Packers are just 6-15 in games decided by three points or fewer under head coach Mike McCarthy (1-3 this season). Since he took over as head coach in 2006, that .286 win percentage in such games is the worst in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE CONSISTENCY
San Francisco ranked second in opponent points per game (17.1) and third in opponent yards per game (294.4) this season. It marked the second straight year in which the 49ers ranked among the league’s top five teams in each category.

Seahawks-Redskins: Eight notes to know

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
1:25
AM ET
The Washington Redskins host the Seattle Seahawks at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday in the NFC Wild-Card Playoffs. Here are eight notes, nuggets and numbers you need to know heading into the matchup:

First-Year Phenoms
Russell Wilson will face Robert Griffin III in the second playoff game ever between rookie starting quarterbacks. You don’t have to go back too far for the first such meeting, which occurred in last season’s wild-card playoffs when T.J. Yates and the Texans defeated Andy Dalton and the Bengals.

Road Weary
The Seahawks have lost eight straight road playoff games dating back to the 1983 divisional playoffs against the Miami Dolphins. A loss Sunday would match the Lions for the longest postseason road losing streak in NFL history (1970-2011).

Wild-Card Warriors
The Redskins are 5-1 all-time in the wild-card playoffs, tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the best record in the opening round by teams with at least four appearances. Unfortunately for Washington, it lost its last wild-card game in 2007 against the Seahawks.

Peaking Late
The Redskins finished the season on a seven-game winning streak after starting a 3-6 start. Washington became the first team since the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars to reach the playoffs after a 3-6 start. That Jaguars team would advance to the AFC Championship Game before falling to the New England Patriots.

Opting for the Option
Nearly 30 percent of the Seahawks’ rushes in the last five weeks of the regular season have utilized a variation of the option after they used it just five times in their first 11 games. On the other sideline, only the Carolina Panthers (146 rushes) have run the option more than the Redskins this season overall (128 rushes).

Turn Down the Pressure
Robert Griffin III posted a 96.8 Total QBR when facing five or more pass rushers in 2012, the highest rating for any qualified quarterback over the past five seasons. Griffin’s success against such pressure has caused teams to dial it back, however, as he has faced four or fewer rushers a league-high 78.8 percent of the time.

Ready for Beast Modee
Marshawn Lynch ranked third in the NFL with 1,590 rushing yards this season and rushed for 100 yards in four straight and eight of his last 10 games. Since 2011, no player has more 100-yard games than Lynch’s 16.

All About Alfred
Alfred Morris finished second in the NFL with 1,613 rush yards this season -- the third-most rush yards by a rookie in NFL history -- and he did it with big plays. Morris had 55 rushes with gains of 10 or more yards this season, second-most in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson (61). Since the start of 2001, only Peterson this season and Ricky Williams in 2002 (57) finished a regular season with more 10-yard rushes than Morris in 2012.

Vikings-Packers: What you need to know

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
7:58
PM ET
The Green Bay Packers host the Minnesota Vikings at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs. Here are eight notes, nuggets and numbers you need to know heading into the matchup:

Familiar foes
The Vikings defeated the Packers to earn a playoff spot in the final week of the regular season. This marks the fifth time over the past 10 seasons that two teams will meet in the Wild Card round after facing off in Week 17. In the previous four occurrences, the regular season winner is 2-2 in the wild-card rematch.

Happy to see you
Adrian Peterson rushed for 409 yards in two games against the Packers this season, including 230 after first contact. No other player had more than 46 yards after contact against Green Bay in 2012 and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 409 yards are the fourth-most by anyone against one opponent in single-season NFL history.

Lost Lambeau luster
The Packers are just 2-4 in their past six home playoff games after going a 13-0 in the franchise’s first 13 home playoff games. Minnesota will be looking for its first road playoff win since 2004 when it defeated -- you guessed it -- the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2004. That game is the only other time the two teams have met in the postseason.

What ground game?
The Packers have not had a 100-yard rusher since Brandon Jackson in Week 5 of 2010, a stretch of 43 consecutive games. Only three teams have won a Super Bowl without having an individual run for at least 100 yards in at least one game during the regular season. The San Francisco 49ers were the last to do it in 1981.

Rodgers-Cobb connection
Aaron Rodgers has completed 78.4 percent of his pass attempts to Randall Cobb this season, the second-highest rate for any quarterback-wide receiver duo with at least 50 attempts (Peyton Manning-Brandon Stokley: 78.9 percent). Cobb did not play in Week 17 but Rodgers went 6-for-6 when targeting Cobb against the Vikings in Week 13.

Peterson attacks the outside
Adrian Peterson averaged 13.7 yards per rush this season against the Packers on carries outside the tackles, accounting for nearly 37 percent of his total yards on such carries against all teams in 2012.

The Packers allowed 7.0 yards per rush outside the tackles overall this season, the second-highest rate in the NFL.

Just for kicks
Vikings rookie Blair Walsh is 35-38 on field goals in 2012, including a perfect 10-10 on attempts of 50 yards or more. His 10 field goals of at least 50 yards are the most in a single season in NFL history. On the other sideline, Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed 12 field goals this season, tied for second-most in the NFL, and was just 2-9 on attempts of 50 yards or more.

Too close for comfort
The Packers are 1-3 in games decided by three points or fewer this season and 6-14 in such games since Mike McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006. Their .300 win percentage is the worst over that span. The Vikings are 14-9 (.609 win pct) in such games over the same stretch, fifth-best in the league, including a 2-1 mark this season.

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