For what it's worth, a few interesting offensive statistics comparing this regular season with last:
- In 2012, the offense ran an amazing 1,191 plays. That's up 109 plays from a very respectable 1,081 last year.
- Average plays per game were up to 74.4 in 2012 from 67.6 in 2011 (up 6.8 plays per game)
- Those plays were spread over 180 drives (compared with 173 last year).* This means we ran, on average, 6.6 plays per drive, up from 6.3 last year.
- We also had more drives per game in 2012, an average of 11.3 per game in 2012 compared with an average of 10.8 last year.
- Drive length was also slightly longer--an average of 2:45 minutes, up from 2:40 last year
- Not surprisingly, with more drives, more plays, and slightly longer drives, average time of possession was up by 2:09 minutes per game (from 28:47 to 30:56).
- Average time per play was actually down from 26 seconds in 2011 to 25 seconds in 2012--so the extra drive time and overall time of possession came from more plays being run, not from plays that ate more clock.
- Despite more drives, more plays, and slighlty longer drive times, total yards were almost the same--427.9 in 2012 versus 428.0 in 2011.
- The only way you can run 109 more plays and end up with the same number of yards is if yards per play was shorter. In fact, the average play got considerably fewer yards in 2012 than in 2011--6.3 yards per play in 2011 down to 5.7 in 2012.
- Part of that decline in average yards per play can be attributed to the higher number of run plays in 2012. In 2012, the 74.4 plays per game were divided into 32.7 running plays and 41.8 passing plays; in 2011, the 67.6 plays per game were divided into 27.4 running plays and 40.3 passing plays. So the Pats increased running plays by 5.3 per game and passing plays by 1.5 per game. Overall, the run-pass mix changed from 40.5%-59.5% in 2011 to 43.9%-56.1% in 2012. Running plays averaged 4.2 yards per carry in 2012, up from 4.0 in 2011, but of course still produced fewer yards than passing plays, so the increase in running plays would result in a reduction in average yards per play.
- More running plays, however, aren't the most significant reason for the decline in yards per play. Far more significant is the decline in yards per passing play. In 2011, the Pats averaged 13.1 yards per completion. In 2012, that dropped by more than a yard per play to 12.0 yards per completion. If you account for incompletions and sacks, the Pats yards per passing play in 2012 was 7.0 yards per play while in 2011 it was 7.9 yards per play. The pass completion percentage was down slightly from 65.7% in 2011 to 62.7%, but the major difference seems to be be fewer yards per completion not a lower completion percentage. (Sacks were also down by 5, but the difference in yards lost to sacks was insignificant, just 9 yards overall.)
While season averages can obscure almost as much as they reveal, they do provide some interesting information on general trends. To me, the most surprising are these:
- Despite running more in 2012, the Pats actually used up less time per play in 2012 than in 2011. The increase in TOP in 2012 was therefore due to the number of plays run more than to the time used up per play. The interesting question is whether this is due mostly to even greater use of the hurry up offense or whether it is really more the impact of the defense getting off the field faster and therefore giving the offense more time to run plays.
- Despite a significant increase in plays per game, the yards per game was almost exactly the same in 2012 and 2011. This seems to be the result of yards per completion declining by a full yard in 2012. An interesting question is whether this was because the passes were generally shorter or because the receivers got fewer yards after the catch. The stats on NFL.com don't tell (they don't record YAC), but it would be interesting to know.
Should have also mentioned scoring:
- In 2011, we scored 57 offensive TDs (18 rushing, 39 passing); In 2012, we scored 59 (25 rushing, 34 passing)--with a few more drives in 2012, the percentage of drives resulting in TDs is the same--33%.
- We had 29 field goals in 2012 and 28 in 2011. (16% of drives resulted in FGs both years.)
- Overall scoring difference on offense is small and can mostly be attributed to the increased number of drives; the bigger difference in scoring was that in 2012 our defense and special teams had 8 TDs, while in 2011 they had just 4. If the defense was partly responsible for the greater number of offensive drives (by getting the opposing offense off the field faster), then the difference in scoring overall (which amounted to 2.7 points per game more in 2012) may be mostly attributable to better defense!
* All stats are from NFL.com (or are simple calculations made from stats available on NFL.com) except for the drive count, which is from Football Outsiders. Football Outsiders excludes end-of-half kneel down drives from the drive count.