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Will Stopping Julio Jones Be Enough for the Patriots in Super Bowl LI?


GTBF54
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The New England Patriots are known for taking away their opponent's best weapon and forcing ancillary players to make plays.

This narrative has become common knowledge, and it could potentially have a big impact on Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons. But is it actually true? Do the Patriots really limit opposing weapons?

Let's dig into the numbers from the 2016 season to find out.

Patriots in 2016

The table below shows the "top" option for 14 of New England's 18 opponents and their production against the Pats compared to their season average.

The reason only 14 teams are included? Well, not all of New England's opponents had a clear, must-stop player. They played the Miami Dolphins without Jay Ajayi, the Buffalo Bills without LeSean McCoy, the New York Jets with a limited Brandon Marshall, and the San Francisco 49ers, who don't necessarily have "weapons."

Player Rec
vs. NE
Tot Yards
vs. NE
TD
vs. NE
Avg.
Rec
Avg.
Tot Yards
Avg.
TD
Antonio Brown 7 106 0 7.1 85.6 0.75
Jay Ajayi 3 79 0 1.8 95.5 0.5
David Johnson 4 132 1 5 132.3 1.25
DeAndre Hopkins 4 56 0 4.9 59.6 0.25
LeSean McCoy 6 108 1 3.3 108.2 0.875
A.J. Green 6 88 0 6.6 96.4 0.25
Doug Baldwin 6 59 3 5.9 70.5 0.437
Brandon Marshall 6 67 1 3.9 52.5 0.1875
Todd Gurley 2 47 0 2.7 75.3 0.375
Steve Smith Sr. 4 57 0 5 57.1 0.3125
Demaryius Thomas 7 91 0 5.6 67.7 0.3125
Terrelle Pryor 5 51 0 4.8 64.2 0.3125
DeAndre Hopkins 6 65 0 4.9 59.6 0.25
Antonio Brown 7 77 0 7.1 85.6 0.75


In the 14 games against the Patriots, seven of those top weapons accrued fewer yards than their seasonal averages while four went over and three were right on par. Top weapons facing off against the Patriots only scored in four of these 14 games.

The Patriots' defense keyed on stopping opposing rushing games from getting going. They gave up 88.6 rushing yards per game, which was good for third in the league, and they ranked eighth in terms of Adjusted Defensive Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. This focus on stopping opposing rushing games and keeping the oppositions' best receiving weapons in check was a winning formula.

The Patriots were a bend-but-don't-break defense that limited scoring opportunities from game-changing opponents, which made them the best scoring defense in the league this season giving up a stifling 15.6 points per game.

Will It Matter?

Super Bowl LI will feature the best scoring defense in the league facing off against the best scoring offense in the league, the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons scorched every team they played this season by lighting up the scoreboard with 33.8 points per game. They finished with 415.8 yards of offense per game, which was second in the NFL behind the New Orleans Saints.

The Falcons also had the best offense in the NFL by our Adjusted NEP per play metric.

Julio Jones is without a doubt the Falcons' best offensive weapon. Even if the Patriots can limit Julio to 73 yards or fewer, which was the average yards given up by the Patriots to opposing top receivers this year, it will not affect the Falcons' white hot offense.

Here are the outcomes of the Falcons games in which Julio had fewer than 73 yards in 2016:

Opponent Yards Outcome
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 66 Loss
New Orleans Saints 16 Win
Denver Broncos 29 Win
Green Bay Packers 29 Win
Seattle Seahawks 67 Win
Carolina Panthers 60 Win
Arizona Cardinals 35 Win


The Falcons went 7-1 when Julio had relatively quiet games, something that makes the Atlanta offense nearly impossible to stop.

This means serious problems for the Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

Sharing the Wealth

Matt Ryan, the soon-to-be NFL MVP, has been nothing short of stellar all season.

His 212.86 Passing NEP led all quarterbacks this season (Drew Brees was a distant second at 185.53, and only five players topped 150). Ryan's Passing NEP per drop back (0.37) and Passing Success Rate (54.64%, the percentage of plays that led to expected point gains) also led the NFL among passers with at least 200 drop backs.

The most impressive part is that Ryan has not been locking in on any one receiver this season. He threw 38 touchdowns, and they have gone to 13 different pass-catchers, an NFL record.

If Julio is slowed down by the Patriots' defense, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Aldrick Robinson, or a plethora of other pass-catchers can step up and produce.

Dominant Duo

If the Patriots can somehow manage to slow down Ryan's passing attack, they will be hard pressed to slow down Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The unstoppable duo combined for 168.9 yards from scrimmage per game, best in the NFL.

The (possibly slightly overrated) Patriots' defense has not seen an offense this versatile all year, an attack that has more weapons than anyone can count, including two versatile running backs with legitimate receiving potential.

Shutting down the opposing teams' best weapon is certainly a winning formula, as the Patriots have used it to go 16-2 going into Super Bowl LI.

However, the Patriots are going to need to stop more than just Julio Jones if they want to become champions of the world for a fifth time.

https://www.numberfire.com/nfl/news/12649/will-stopping-julio-jones-be-enough-for-the-patriots-in-super-bowl-li

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8 minutes ago, GTBF54 said:

Here are the outcomes of the Falcons games in which Julio had fewer than 73 yards in 2016:

Opponent Yards Outcome
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 66 Loss
New Orleans Saints 16 Win
Denver Broncos 29 Win
Green Bay Packers 29 Win
Seattle Seahawks 67 Win
Carolina Panthers 60 Win
Arizona Cardinals 35 Win


The Falcons went 7-1 when Julio had relatively quiet games, something that makes the Atlanta offense nearly impossible to stop.

This means serious problems for the Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

This chart doesn't include 2 games in which Julio didn't even play, both 30-pt blowout wins

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12 minutes ago, athell said:

What's our record again when Julio has 40 yards or less and factoring in those games he missed due to injury?  6-0?

Well the argument is then but that was the regular season.

Now the narrative seems to be listening to a few media heads is if our guys can play aswell in the big game.They mention because NEs players a lot of them have been there multiple times a lot of our guys might freeze in the big moment.

They continually talk about Ryan's past but if there being truthful they should change that to what's going on now.Forget the past as that has know bearing on what's going to happen at the coming SB.

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Just now, kiwifalcon said:

Well the argument is then but that was the regular season.

Now the narrative seems to be listening to a few media heads is if our guys can play aswell in the big game.They mention because NEs players a lot of them have been there multiple times a lot of our guys might freeze in the big moment.

They continually talk about Ryan's past but if there being truthful they should change that to what's going on now.Forget the past as that has know bearing on what's going to happen at the coming SB.

Well, we WERE averaging 33.8 PPG in the regular season.  We are NOW averaging 40 PPG in the postseason which if we factor in the kneel down at the end of the Seattle game we are averaging 10 more PPG than the regular season lol

The argument could very easily be made that we are playing better football right now than in the regular season which is just insane.

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They are gonna try to TOP us to death. Enter Hageman and Jarrett to have the game of their lives. They can't use the approach they used to beat the rams, which was hit their receivers hard as soon as they caught the ball because our top 2 receivers are very physical. Plus Kyle calls safer more efficient plays than Mike Martz does. And taking the best player away isn't always the strategy that Bill will use. He will take away an aspect of your game. Like the running game. Or the passing game.

 

He will try and make you one dimensional. I think bill will try and take our running game away, try and get an early lead to make us 1 dimensional. I don't think he will focus on just talking Julio away. That's the illusion. The focus is taking Devonta Coleman away in the running game. The games we lost we were very unbalanced and Matt threw the ball way too much. It's that simple. Ppl are looking at julios nimbers. That's not the sauce. The secret sauce numbers are in how balanced we are. 

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4 minutes ago, QuinnTorris said:

I have a feeling the Patriots will try to come out of the gates and go run heavy. This is one of the rare moments where I'd be okay with receiving the ball first if we win the coin toss. 

Dont do anything different. If we win the toss defer as usual. See this is where teams lose games because they outsmart themselves and go against the grain. Defer as usual because that gives us the opportunity to have a 14 point swing and gives us more possessions in the second half. So what if they run heavy. We will be in run heavy fronts with Hageman, Jarrett, and Upshaw. 

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2 minutes ago, athell said:

Well, we WERE averaging 33.8 PPG in the regular season.  We are NOW averaging 40 PPG in the postseason which if we factor in the kneel down at the end of the Seattle game we are averaging 10 more PPG than the regular season lol

The argument could very easily be made that we are playing better football right now than in the regular season which is just insane.

They keep talking about the Falcons past which makes me laugh acting like we were the team that lost multiple times in the play-offs.I see it's hard for a few of them to admit that they were wrong about Matt Ryan also.Like you say the moment isn't to big for him and his and the team performances have been lights out the last 2 weeks.

I think we'll go through some adversity in this game but will come out on top.

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4 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

They are gonna try to TOP us to death. Enter Hageman and Jarrett to have the game of their lives. They can't use the approach they used to beat the rams, which was hit their receivers hard as soon as they caught the ball because our top 2 receivers are very physical. Plus Kyle calls safer more efficient plays than Mike Martz does. And taking the best player away isn't always the strategy that Bill will use. He will take away an aspect of your game. Like the running game. Or the passing game.

 

He will try and make you one dimensional. I think bill will try and take our running game away, try and get an early lead to make us 1 dimensional. I don't think he will focus on just talking Julio away. That's the illusion. The focus is taking Devonta Coleman away in the running game. The games we lost we were very unbalanced and Matt threw the ball way too much. It's that simple. Ppl are looking at julios nimbers. That's not the sauce. The secret sauce numbers are in how balanced we are. 

That's the key for both teams balance and early success in the run game.Too me though it's more important for them.I know our guys will get theres wheather it be run or pass.Lewis is there dark horse he's the closest to what we have.

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29 minutes ago, Carl927 said:

You can't shut down this offense.  If you're getting pressure on Matt, we dink and dunk you to death with quick passes.  You better have a big lead before that happens.

Not true. Matt Ryan is in a zone and his timing is incredible. The secret to stopping our offense is to disrupt that timing. Expect the Patsies to bump our guys as close to the line of scrimmage and create situations where routes are altered or adjusted. If they can delay the breaks for a couple of receivers and get push in the middle of the line, we'll be in trouble.

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9 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

Well the argument is then but that was the regular season.

Now the narrative seems to be listening to a few media heads is if our guys can play aswell in the big game.They mention because NEs players a lot of them have been there multiple times a lot of our guys might freeze in the big moment.

They continually talk about Ryan's past but if there being truthful they should change that to what's going on now.Forget the past as that has know bearing on what's going to happen at the coming SB.

Agreed. His last two games were so flawlessly played (really his last 10) that past has literally no affect on Ryan right now. He's playing at historically elite levels this post-season and I see no reason for that to change.

DQ has won and been to SB's and knows how to help players manage the pressure. The NFC Championship, to me, was the most giant stage the Falcon's have been on, and we played so loose and so dominant I have zero doubts on the big stage.

All of our young players played in huge college championship games and games with 100k people screaming, they'll be ready.

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3 minutes ago, RandomVariable said:

NE won't try to "stop" Julio Jones. They will try to limit his number of big plays. He will get his 100+ yards, which is why they likely won't dedicate their best CB to him. They will probably put someone else on him and they will give that CB safety help. 

They better keep a safety behind him or he's gone.  Even then it's no guarantee.  He's insanely fast and strong.  Whoo's a freak of nature - seriously.

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23 minutes ago, kiwifalcon said:

Well the argument is then but that was the regular season.

Now the narrative seems to be listening to a few media heads is if our guys can play aswell in the big game.They mention because NEs players a lot of them have been there multiple times a lot of our guys might freeze in the big moment.

They continually talk about Ryan's past but if there being truthful they should change that to what's going on now.Forget the past as that has know bearing on what's going to happen at the coming SB.

they also need to look at Ryans individual performances, and stop just looking at the INT in the GB game. he's 3-1 in his last 4 post season games, and the numbers he's put up have him very high in the all time lists, and that's including the games he's lost.....and he's only been in 7 post season games total hasn't he?

 

I also believe they should pay a bit more attention to the games this year, the fire, drive and determination Matt's displayed is something we've discussed around here a lot this year

 

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1 minute ago, papachaz said:

they also need to look at Ryans individual performances, and stop just looking at the INT in the GB game. he's 3-1 in his last 4 post season games, and the numbers he's put up have him very high in the all time lists, and that's including the games he's lost.....and he's only been in 7 post season games total hasn't he?

 

I also believe they should pay a bit more attention to the games this year, the fire, drive and determination Matt's displayed is something we've discussed around here a lot this year

 

I get why and for most who don't watch in depth like the home fans do I get why they post and think the way I do.

But you are correct Ryan has gone to a new level this year and if the last 2 weeks are anything to go by man the skies the limit.

NE are the benchmark and the old to be the best you have to beat the best adage applies.I really like our chances though.

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19 minutes ago, JayOzOne said:

Not true. Matt Ryan is in a zone and his timing is incredible. The secret to stopping our offense is to disrupt that timing. Expect the Patsies to bump our guys as close to the line of scrimmage and create situations where routes are altered or adjusted. If they can delay the breaks for a couple of receivers and get push in the middle of the line, we'll be in trouble.

I don't think our routes are necessarily just about timing and rhythm. Look at the Julio catch and run for example. The dude **** near tried to tackle Julio. He was flagged but that sure as he'll altered the timing of the route. Even so, Ryan knew he was going to Julio there on the one-on-one. He had to wait an extra split second but the pass was completed and the score is history. I don't think just because you try to jam our receivers that it will do much. Julio and Sanu will outright out jam most DBs. Gabriel is quick and small enough to get away from it. Jamming our guys will not do any defenses any favors. Think it does the opposite really. 

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