Stat check: Patriots fumble stats are telling

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Stat check: Patriots fumble stats are telling

The Patriots stack up statistically against the rest of the league about like you'd expect. They are all over the board -- excellent offensively; poor defensively.

One team stat jumps off the page, though, and it explains why the Patriots are dangerous going forward, where the strength of their defense is, how well Tom Brady is playing and -- more ominously -- how fortunate they are to be 4-3.

The stat is turnover differential. The Patriots are plus-11 in turnover differential. They've come up with 18 turnovers. The fumbles are what's astounding. New England's recovered 11 so far. And the fumble forced by Vince Wilfork in the first half Sunday didn't go down as a recovery although it caused a safety.

The Cardinals and Falcons are next in the NFL in fumble recoveries and they are at seven apiece.

Chandler Jones, Brandon Spikes and Rob Ninkovich have forcedrecovered three each. Jerod Mayo has the other one among the front-seven.

That kind of play at the front of the defense is what's allowing the Patriots to dodge bullets. So too is the care that Brady is taking with the ball. The Seattle game looms large because it was a winnable game and Brady had two big picks and a grounding that cost a field goal in a one-point loss. But nobody throws it more than Brady in the NFL and no quarterback turns it over by interception less frequently.

When you think of the timing of the big fumble recoveries -- late against the Broncos with Denver looking to close within three; Sunday in overtime, even the late one against the Cardinals when Arizona was trying to kill clock -- you see how dogged the Patriots front-seven has been.

The back end, of course, is a disaster statistically against the pass. They are 29th in terms of passing yards allowed (290 per game). Only the Saints, Bucs and Redskins are worse (303, 325 and 328 respectively). And the notion that the Patriots allow a lot of yards because they've been ahead by a bunch? Not real valid.

The top pass defenses in terms of yards allowed are the Niners, Steelers, Texans, Cowboys and Cardinals. All are decent teams and that are allowing 200 yards or fewer through the air.

The Patriots are 23rd in yards per game allowed, 24th in yards per play, eighth in rushing yards per game allowed, third in yards per attempt, 29th passing yards and 26th in net passing yards per play. They are also 25th in the league when it comes to getting off the field on third down.

Offensively, the Patriots are first in the NFL in yards per game, fifth in rushing yards per game, fifth in net passing yards, first in percentage intercepted per pass, first in first downs per game, third in third down efficiency, last in gross punting average, 31st in net punting and first in points.

As always, some stats need context and the punting stats are one. Zoltan Mesko certainly has had his share of regrettable punts but he is not the "worst" punter in the league as the net and gross averages would indicate. The Patriots' offensive potency means he has fewer opportunities to air it out from his own end than most punters. Evidence of this is that Mesko leads the AFC and is third in the NFL with 17 punts dropped inside the 20. Sunday, for example, four Mesko punts came from the Patriots 45 or further meaning a boomed punt would be an automatic touchback.

Other individual stats: Wes Welker leads the NFL in receiving yards with 688. He's second in YAC with 323 (Percy Harvin, 427). He leads the NFL in receptions with 54.

Welker is tied for third in targets with 74 (Larry Fitzgerald). Welker's 11 catches that result in third down conversions is one off the lead. Welker leads the NFL with 17 third-down receptions.

Brandon Lloyd is eighth in targets with 65. Lloyd's caught 35 of the passes his way.

Jerod Mayo leads the NFL with 71 tackles.

Devin McCourty is two off the NFL lead in passes defensed with nine.

Brady's completing 59.7 percent of his 4th quarter passes (40-67), His fourth quarter rating is 91.6 which is 12th.

Stevan Ridley leads the NFL with 43 first downs.

Finally, Stephen Gostkowski is second in the NFL in scoring among kickers (71 points) and is second in the NFL with 25 kickoffs than go for touchbacks.

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

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Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

When Kyle Van Noy was traded to the Patriots in late October, he had a lot to learn. He needed to understand the layout of his new team's maze-like facility. He needed to adjust to a new locker room. He needed to adapt to a new home. 

He also had to become fluent in a new language.

The former Lions 'backer was inactive for two weeks before he was comfortable enough with the Patriots system -- and the coaching staff was comfortable enough with him -- to get on the field. He played 29 snaps against the Niners in first game with his new club, then saw 28 plays against the Jets. On Sunday he saw his role expand as he played 40 of a possible 51 plays, which was more than Shea McClellin (38) or Dont'a Hightower (33). 

"Kyle has done a great job of working really hard to acclimate to what we’re doing, and he has had to learn really fast as far as the system, the communication, the language," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on a conference call Tuesday. "It’s like when you go to a different system, offensively or defensively, a lot of times it’s just learning the vernacular and the verbiage . . . That’s a big part of it. Then getting more familiar with that kind of terminology and the communication is critical because there’s a lot of calls and adjustments, things like that that we’ve got to do on the field."

Van Noy was making some of those calls himself on Sunday as he wore the green dot on his helmet when Hightower was on the sidelines. Even with the added responsibility, Van Noy was able to play freely enough that he put together what might have been the best game of his three-year career. 

Used at the end of the line of scrimmage as well as in a more traditional off-the-line linebacker role, Van Noy was effective in defending both the pass and the run: He stuffed three Rams rush attempts, he recorded a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion, he drew a holding call, and he recorded an athletic interception when he tracked a wobbling Jared Goff pass that floated over the middle after Jabaal Sheard hit Goff's arm as the rookie released his throw.

After several of his stand-out plays, Van Noy was visibly excited on the field and later on the sidelines. It was the culmination of six weeks of work, learning as much as he could from a coaching staff that was eager to teach him. 

"He’s extremely prideful in his work and his approach to the game," Patricia said. "He’s very cerebral. He’ll ask a lot of questions. He really wants to understand what we’re doing and why, which is great. We’re trying to give him those answers and insight into kind of where some of this either came from or developed or situations like that so that’s really good."