In 2011 the New England Patriots won the AFC championship and nearly Super Bowl XLVI. Following the crushing defeat to the New York Giants, their goal was to rebound and this year to win the big game. So what does the Patriots 2012 season look like compared to the 2011 season?
Offensively the Patriots statistics are very similar to last season. In 2011 the Patriots averaged 317.8 yards per game passing mainly using their two tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. After five time Pro Bowler Wes Welker, the next two leading receivers were the tight ends. The only other receiver with any measurable production was Deion Branch. Running the ball the Patriots averaged 110.3 yards per game behind starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis though as the leading rusher he finished with only 667 yards.
In 2012, the Patriots had similar total production from their offense though in a different way. Both Gronkowski and Hernandez dealt with injuries which kept them out for multiple weeks. Because of that the two leading receivers were Welker and newly acquired Brandon Lloyd. With those four leading the way, the Patriots averaged 291.4 yards per game through the air. The running game was much more effective in 2012. After Green-Ellis left via free agency, 2011 draft pick Stevan Ridley took over and took control of the running game. With his lead, the Patriots averaged 136.5 yards per game on the ground which placed them seventh in the league.
Tom Brady had a similar though not quite as spectacular year in 2012. Brady had an incredible 2011 going 401 for 611 with 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns. He finished with a fantastic quarterback rating of 105.6. While he didn’t have quite those numbers in 2012, Brady still had a big year putting his name in consideration for MVP. This year Brady went 401 for 637 with 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns. His quarterback rating was down to 98.7 which placed him sixth in the league.
Overall, the Patriots possessed the second best offense in the league in 2011 with 428 yards and 32.1 points per game. They averaged 317.8 yards in the air and 110.3 yards on the ground. This year the Patriots possessed the best offense in the league with 427.9 yards and 34.8 points per game leading the league in both categories. They averaged 291.4 yards per game passing but increased their rushing average to 136.5 yards per game.
While the Patriots offense stayed as dominant in 2012 as they were in 2011, the defense made vast improvements this year. Last season the Patriots defense gave up 411.1 yards and 21.4 points per game. The secondary was the biggest problem for the Patriots defense last year giving up 293.9 yards through the air. On the ground they gave up 117.1 yards per game. The Patriots passing defense ranked 31st in the league and the rushing defense ranked 17th in the league.
The improved Patriots defense gave up 373.3 yards and 20.7 points per game moving them from the 31st in total defense to 25th this season. With the additions of Steve Gregory and Aqib Talib, the Patriots improved their passing defense giving up 271.4 yards. Up front they got great performances from defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and rookie Chandler Jones giving up just 101.9 yards per game. While their passing defense only improved to 29th, the rushing defense were ranked in the top ten all year and finished ninth.
In both of the last two seasons, the Patriots’ weakest point was a two game losing streak but at different times of the season. In 2011 the Patriots lost in weeks eight and nine following their bye week to the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. In 2012 they struggled at the beginning of the season falling to the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens in weeks two and three. Last year the Patriots started 5-1 before losing the two games and ended with an eight game winning streak. This season they started 3-3 before finishing 9-1. The only loss they suffered during that run came in week 15 against a tough San Francisco 49ers team a week after they demolished the Houston Texans.
The Patriots finished the 2011 with a 13-3 record winning the AFC East and were the number one seed in the conference. In 2012 the Patriots went 12-4 repeating as AFC East champions and are the number two team in the conference. It’s been another successful year for the Patriots and they could be poised for a second straight Super Bowl appearance. But this year they’ll be hoping for a different result.