Super Bowl XLVI: Patriots, Giants will make Adjustments from Week 9

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The final day of reckoning for the 2012 National Football League season has officially arrived with Super Bowl XLVI just a few short hours away.  All of the media hype and player posturing during these last 14 days of preparation will soon become meaningless background fodder full of inconsequential quotes and forgotten sound bites.

Event:                   SUPER BOWL XLVI

Where:                 Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN

When:                  February 5, 2012           6:30PM EST

Who:                     (AFC Champion) New England Patriots vs. New York Giants (NFC Champion)

The monumental test of wills crowning a world champion in America’s #1 sport will commence on the FieldTurf of Lucas Oil Stadium, not over a microphone.

Over the past two weeks football enthusiasts have spent much time scouring media reports attempting to gain a leg up on what to expect from the New England Patriots and New York Giants in today’s showdown of champions.  Aside from all the pregame hype, several hidden gems can be found buried within the week 9 faceoff between these same combatants less than 3 months ago in Foxboro, MA.

Through closer inspection of the first match-up, both coaching staffs will uncover aspects causing failures in execution they deem unacceptably sub-par within their team’s performance.  Improvement upon these deficiencies likely will lead to an alternate outcome in the hotly contested sequel between these padded gladiators.  Below is a look at some of the intricacies of the previous matchup that will likely influence the game plan/strategy of each team for Super Bowl XLVI:

1)  Turnover, Turnovers, Turnovers

Belichick the perfectionist

When on the short end of the turnover stick, these detested heartbreakers are every coaches’ worst nightmare.  Not only do they immediately terminate the offense’s push towards scoring, but they often greatly aid the opponent’s ability to score in their own right.   And never to be overestimated is the importance of the momentum reversal a well-placed turnover incites.  It’s common knowledge in football circles that the team with the least amount of turnovers develops a sizeable advantage in securing the victory.  Of monumental significance with turnovers is the location on the field where these turnovers occur, and also if they result in points for the opponent’s next drive.  In the first matchup between these teams, turnovers played a huge part in the outcome.

Much to Coach Bill Belichick’s chagrin, his Patriots surrendered the ball unwillingly on 5 occasions (2 INTs, 2 fumbles, missed FG) during the first showdown.  The missed FG doesn’t show up as an official turnover on the stat sheet, however it does count in an analytical aspect as it caused the offense to relinquish the ball to the Giants when points were being attempted, which is no different from a fumble or INT taking place at the same location.  Providing anything above 3 turnovers to the opponent is a tremendous obstacle to overcome for any offense, much less 5 unnatural changes of possession.  Taking a closer look at the Patriot’s turnovers provides a clearer picture of what might have been.

Starting play location (result)            Resulting Points Differential                        Actual score      NYG 24, NE 20

NYG 29  (2nd down INT)                    minimum 3 points lost in FG range           Adjusted score  NYG 24, NE 23

NYG   8   (4th down missed FG)       3 points lost on FG attempt                         Adjusted score  NYG 24, NE 26

NWE 43  (2nd down INT)                   led to Giants FG, 3 points given away       Adjusted score  NYG 21, NE 26

NWE 16  (3rd down fumble)              led to Giants TD, 7 points given away       Adjusted score  NYG 14, NE 26

NWE 40  (punt return fumble)           No attributed points lost or given                Adjusted score  NYG 14, NE 26

New England realistically left a minimum of 6 points on the board through failures to convert while in FG range.  In addition, the Giants produced 10 points on drives immediately following Patriot turnovers.  New England miscues created a minimum total of a 16 point negative swing favoring New York.  While turnovers are likely to happen in every football game, avoiding only a few on this day would have made a world of difference for New England in a close game decided within the last 20 seconds and by a mere 4 points.  Below is a closer inspection of the Giants two turnovers surrendered in week 9.

NWE  5   (3rd down INT )                    minimum 3 points lost in FG range           Adjusted score  NYG 17, NE 26

NYG 33  (punt return fumble)             led to Pats FG, 3 points given away           Adjusted score  NYG 17, NE 23

The Giants turned the ball over once while in FG range and another time in their own territory resulting in New England’s starting field position already within FG striking distance.  New York’s ball-handling blunders thus resulted in a 6 point negative swing in favor of the Patriots.

Assuming each team eliminated all of their turnovers in the game, we would add on to the final score the minimum number of imminent points lost by each team (NE+6, NYG+3), and also remove the points directly resulting from turnovers (NE-10, NYG-3).  The net adjustment to the actual final score is NE+3 and NYG-7.  Thus the new, adjusted final score minus turnovers becomes…New England 23, New York Giants 17.  Instead of a 4-point Giant’s victory, turnovers played a direct part in preventing approximately a 6-point Patriot’s win.  With Coach Bill Belichick being a known perfectionist, expect New England to focus strongly on taking added precautions to secure points when opportunities arise, as well as refrain from handing the Giants unnecessary opportunities to convert turnovers into points.

How do these turnovers in week 9 relate to the outcome of Super Bowl XLVI?  In regards to the Patriots and their unsavory -2 official turnover margin the first time around, there will simply be a more conscious effort to protect the football.  Expect New England to rely a little more on the run in situations requiring short yardage gains or when points are imminent.  Also Brady will be more apt to play it closer to the vest and throw the ball away when a play deviates from its intended design.  This cautious approach will result in New England taking fewer chances when the play extends and the pressure exerted by the Giant’s relentless pass rush increases.  Brady surely will be schooled more towards managing the offense with a little less risk involved.  And since each team turned the ball over during punt returns, returners will be instructed to make a more conscious effort to secure the ball before and during attempts to gain yardage.

See step two on the next page…

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