There's a very cool feature on Boston.com today that allows you to run through various down-and-distance scenarios the Patriots have faced this season and it shows what plays they have run most often in those situations. It does the same for the Colts, Saturday's opponent in the AFC Divisional playoffs.
I took the Patriots Play Predictor for a spin this morning – it is essentially a sortable database of every play the teams have run this season – and found the following interesting:
-- As you would expect, when Brady and company were faced with third-and-long this season, they liked to throw the ball. On third-and-11 or more, the Patriots passed the ball 78 percent of the time.
Similarly obvious, on third-and-1 the Patriots ran the ball 72 percent of the time. Add another yard, though, and the ratio flips to 55 percent passing plays. Julian Edelman was Brady's top target in that situation with four targets in 22 plays.
-- The play predictor also allows you to drill down further into different scenarios. I was most curious about the red zone. On first-and-10 from inside the 20 the Patriots ran the ball 52 percent of the time. As a comparison, the Colts passed the ball 51 percent of the time on first-and-10 in the red zone.
In pressure situations -- third-and-whatever from inside the 10-yard line, the Patriots threw the ball 14 times and ran the ball four times. Rob Gronkowski was the target of two of those passes and assuredly would have been the target of more had he not been injured. When it really mattered for Indy inside the 10, the Colts ran the ball three times and passed it seven times.
-- Despite having what most people consider to be an inferior running game, the Colts ran the ball on 44 percent of their 418 first-and-10 plays. The Patriots ran the ball on 46 percent of their first-and-10's.
There's a lot you can do with the tool, but we're also open to suggestions on improvement. For example, I'd like to be able to select all downs and distances and look at every red zone play or every play in New England's half of the field.
Test it out, then keep it handy during Saturday's playoff game.