Stats & Info: Shane Vereen

Brady beats the blitz ... eventually

December, 1, 2013
Tom Brady has beaten the Houston Texans’ blitz before.

This time, it just took him a little longer to figure it out.

The Texans’ blitz gave Brady problems in the first half, holding him to 2 for 7 passing (with an interception and a sack) when sending at least five pass rushers.

But Brady was much improved in the second half against the Texans’ blitz, which Wade Phillips dialed up almost twice as often as in the first two quarters. The chart on the right illustrates the difference.

Brady’s two most notable passes against the blitz in this game were the touchdown throw to Shane Vereen that gave the Patriots their first lead of the game, and the third-down 17-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski to the Texans 43, which led to the eventual game-winning field goal.

The change in approach came in how far Brady threw the ball when he was blitzed. He elected to throw shorter passes.

Brady’s average throw against Houston’s blitz was 15.0 yards downfield in the first half and 8.5 yards downfield in the second half.

Brady beat the Texans’ blitz last year in both games he faced the Texans. Brady was 25 for 38 for 356 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in Week 14 and the Divisional Playoffs combined when Houston sent at least five rushers.

Brady did have one notable streak against the blitz come to an end. He had thrown 31 touchdown passes without an interception against pass rushes of five or more since he threw an interception against it in a game against the Washington Redskins in Week 14 of the 2011 season.

AFC/NFC title games: Need-to-know info

January, 19, 2013
Looking back at the Stats and Info Blog's coverage leading up to the AFC and NFC Championships on Sunday afternoon.

Eight stats to know: AFC championship
Notes stats and trends on Tom Brady’s home-field advantage, the value of being a No. 4 seed, and much more.

Eight stats to know: NFC championship
Notes, stats and trends on the value of being a No. 1 seed, the Atlanta Falcons past against the San Francisco 49ers, and the pair of Matty Ices.

Lewis may not have huge impact vs Brady
Ray Lewis has had a great career, but he’s done little against Tom Brady in past meetings.

Flacco finds deep-throw success in playoffs
Joe Flacco completed only 37 percent of throws 20 or more yards downfield in the regular season. He’s fared considerably better in the postseason.

Kaepernick adds more than rushing upgrade
Colin Kaepernick’s skills include the ability to get the best out of receivers like Michael Crabtree.

Falcons must contain 49ers option game
The Green Bay Packers may have been taken by surprise considering that Kaepernick hadn’t kept the ball on an option play since Week 14. The Falcons won’t be, but they’ve had their share of troubles with quarterback runs this season.

Gronkowski injury will not slow down Patriots
Rob Gronkowski is out for the rest of the postseason, but you can expect the New England Patriots to continue to use their two tight-end set.

Young running backs emerge for Patriots
A closer look at what Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen do best.

Young running backs emerge for Patriots

January, 18, 2013

Getty Images, USA TODAY SportsStevan Ridley (left) and Shane Vereen (right) have made the Patriots offense more dynamic.
The secret is out on the pair of dynamic young talents the New England Patriots have in their backfield.

Second-year running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen beat the Houston Texans on the ground and through the air Sunday for 219 combined yards and four touchdowns, helping to propel the Patriots into the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Stopping this young duo will not be easy for the Ravens, especially with Tom Brady at the top of his game.

Here is a look at the matchup problems each player will present Sunday.

Stevan Ridley
Ridley, the bigger of the two backs at 5-11, 220 pounds, is having a breakout year. The early-down specialist rushed for 1,263 yards with 12 touchdowns during the regular season and added 82 rushing yards with another score on the ground Sunday.

Ridley is at his best when asked to help the Patriots wind the clock with a lead. As the chart shows, no running back was better than Ridley in the second half with his team protecting a lead.

Picking up yards after contact is something he does regardless of the score. On Sunday alone, Ridley picked up three first downs when he was contacted before the first down-marker. His 38 first downs on plays where he was hit short of the markers was good for third in the NFL behind only Adrian Peterson and Alfred Morris.

Shane Vereen
As linebacker Barrett Ruud and the Texans found out Sunday, Vereen can be a playmaker in the passing game and a great complement to Ridley.

In the fourth quarter of that game, Vereen lined up wide to the left, faked an inside move and reeled in a pefect sideline throw from Brady for a 33-yard touchdown. The play might have caught the Texans off guard but it was nothing new for the young running back. In college at Cal, Vereen ran the same route down the left sideline against the Andrew Luck-led Stanford Cardinal back in 2008 for a 59-yard touchdown.

Shane Vereen
Vereen has now hauled in 13-of-16 targets this season. Despite an average target depth of just 4.9 yards downfield, Vereen turned those 13 receptions into 232 yards, thanks mostly to an incredible average of 14.4 yards-after-catch per reception.

Vereen’s 17.6 yards-after-catch per reception during the regular season was first among backs with multiple receptions.

The versatility he offers the Patriots in the passing game is something New England hasn’t seen since Kevin Faulk. In fact, Vereen’s touchdown catch against Houston was the first by a Patriots running back while split out wide since Faulk back in October of 2008 against the St. Louis Rams.

Ridley and Vereen complement each other very well and make the already strong Patriot offense that much harder to stop.

Patriots make Texans pay for approach

January, 13, 2013

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaShane Vereen and Tom Brady combined to do in the Texans again.
The Houston Texans elected to pursue New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with nearly the same fervor that they did when the Patriots clobbered them in Week 14.

And on Sunday they paid a similar price.

Brady was 12-for-19 for 208 yards and two touchdowns against five or more pass rushers, as part of a 344-yard, three-touchdown day. As you can see in the chart on the right, it mimicked his performance in Week 14.

Brady passed Joe Montana for most postseason starts won with his 17th.

He’ll tie Montana for the most conference championship game starts when he faces the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship next Sunday. He also joined Montana and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with at least 40 postseason touchdown passes.

Brady wasn’t the only one to have a huge game in the Patriots' 41-28 win. Let’s take a look at some of the other statistical highlights.

Vereen leads ground game
Patriot running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 219 total yards (48 percent of the Patriots offense) and four touchdowns, showcasing an inside running game the Patriots haven’t had in recent postseason appearances.

Nearly all (113) of their 123 rushing yards came inside the tackles, an average of more than six per rush. In the previous three postseasons, Patriots running backs averaged only 3.5 yards when running inside the tackles.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Vereen became the third player in NFL postseason history with two touchdown receptions and a touchdown run in a postseason game. He joins Roger Craig (1984 San Francisco 49ers) and Ricky Watters (1994 49ers), each of whom did so in a Super Bowl.

Vereen also tied the Patriots record for most touchdowns in a postseason game, matching a mark previously set by Curtis Martin and Rob Gronkowski.

Vereen collected 58 receiving yards and two receptions and a touchdown when lined up wide, only the third touchdown for a running back lined up wide this season, and the most such receiving yards for a RB in a game over the last three seasons in any game.

Welker comes up big
Wes Welker’s 131 receiving yards were a career-high, surpassing his previous best of 103
in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants.

Welker entered the game with a league-high 669 yards after the catch. He had 62 in this game.

With eight catches Welker also broke the Patriots postseason record for career receptions, his 61 surpassing Troy Brown’s record of 58.

Stat of the Weekend
With 276 points scored, the 2012 Divisional Playoffs are the highest scoring round of the postseason in NFL history.

All eight teams scored at least 28 points in the Divisional Round. No team scored more than 24 points in the Wild Card games.

Looking ahead
This will be the first AFC Championship rematch since the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns faced each other in both 1986 and 1987.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will face the Patriots in Foxborough for the seventh time. He’s 0-4 against them in the regular season, 1-1 in the postseason.