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Thursday, 13 December 2012

OLR Week 14: All Hail Pat!

That's right, everyone's favourite throwback mascot is to thank for the top OLR score from week 14. He may not have been on the side of their helmets (which, let's be honest, he always should be), but Pat Patriot and his Centres stance certainly inspired the guys upfront for the Patriots as they took apart the then 1-loss Texans on MNF recording a superb 42-14 win, despite JJ Watt's best efforts.

More on their performance, plus how the real cream of NFL Offensive Lines rose to the top this week, after the jump...

After week 13 saw the Minnesota Vikings power their way to top spot on the back of a superb rushing performance from Adrian Peterson, this week we see a very different offense claim #1, as Tom Brady's personal bodyguards can take the plaudits for keeping him mostly unscathed against the might of the Houston Texans defense.

Indeed, the numbers for the Patriots OL in this game are not the eye-popping 10 YPC that Peterson managed, nor the practically unchallenged time in the pocket that Peyton Manning was allowed by the Denver OL in week 13, but more a model of consistency against arguably the best defensive front 7 in football.

Their running was solid - a 3.9YPC on 33 carries is fairly average for the NFL, and in the ballpark of the Texans average concession of 4.1 YPC (ranking them 10th in the NFL).The Patriots gained a total of 9 rushing first downs (compared with only 2 runs for negative gains), and Stevan Ridley added a TD in the 4th quarter. All decent stats, especially when you consider the Texans had conceded only 2 rushing TDs in their previous 12 games.

The Patriots OL also did well in protecting Tom Brady. Sure, the QB took some hits. In fact, he was taken down by the Texans pass rush 6 times on Monday night, but only one of these was for a sack, by rookie Whitney Mercilus in the 3rd Q. And whilst on JJ Watt made Patriots LT Nate Solder look like he wasn't even there, the Patriots managed to limit him to 0 sacks, and only 4 total tackles (admittedly, he was responsible for 3 of the QB takedowns by himelf, and one of his tackles forced a fumble in the redzone that Brandon Lloyd recovered for a TD, but the guy has 16.5 sacks this year, and not letting him record one on MNF was a big result for the Pats).

Against a defense that lies 10th in the NFL vs the run, 4th in total sacks, 7th in yards allowed per game, and 2nd overall in the TPL defensive rankings so far for 2012, the performance the Patriots gave to put up 42 points is impressive, and a whole heap of praise needs to be levelled at the OL.

This is a matchup we might get to see again come January.

Beneath the Patriots in the week 14 table we find 3 teams currently in the running for a podium finish in the 2012 overall OLR standings. Whilst the Giants are still far and away the #1 team in the NFL, consolidating their position with repeatedly positive performances, the chasing pack is really taking shape, with the Seahawks, 49ers and Vikings (along with this weeks #1 Patriots) leading the way.

On the back of another good rushing week, the Vikings OL have moved themselves into the #3 slot in the NFL. 171 yards at 4.5 YPC is nothing like their score last week, but 2 rushing TDs for AP, 8 rushing first downs, and only 1 sack of Christian Ponder against a decent Bears defense (even with the loss of Urlacher really hurting them in the middle) is a great performance from week 14.

Seattle were another big scoring offense this week, putting up 58 points on the frankly useless Arizona Cardinals. 284 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs, 13 (yes, thirteen!) rushing first downs, and just one sack. Of course they had help from their defense, giving them the ball time and time again when John Skelton clearly didn't want it, but the numbers are crazy good against what was a decent defense earlier this year. Now, not so much.

With San Francisco, the story was very different. They faced TPLs #1 ranked defensive front 7 in week 14 - the Miami Dolphins. Their pass protection wasn't great, and they let Colin Kapaernick get taken down 7 times in the backfield, 4 of which were sacks. In the running game, however, they more than made up for it. A YPC of 5.5, 3 rushing TDs, and 9 rushing first downs was enough against a very stout DL and LB unit to place them third in the NFL for week 14, and push them to 5th for the year as a whole.

Short of a distasterous performance from NYG in the remaining 3 weeks, they look to be home and dry in the race to be #1 for the season, but the race for second place is definitely still on, with realistically 10 teams still in the running. With week 15 now upon us, who'll have the power down the stretch to secure those top spots, and potentially that playoff berth?

In 3 weeks we'll know...

- Phil Gaskin (@sosayitisaid)
- The Pulling Linemen

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