The Patriots offense hasn't fallen off despite a 40-year-old quarterback in Tom Brady and the loss of No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman before the start of the season — in fact, quite the contrary. New England's efficiency has peaked even by its own lofty standards.
The modern-day NFL machine
There isn't an area where the Patriots lack on offense. They control every part of the field with precision and production.
Call him Dr. Brady
The Patriots are outright surgical on offense. Aside from their average gain of 8 yards on first-and-10, Brady and coach Bill Belichick get precisely what they need on third downs more often than not. Just ask the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose stellar defense gave up a 21-yard throw to Danny Amendola on third-and-18 in the fourth quarter of the AFC title game.
Patriots gain 11.4 yards on average when down is 3rd-and-10 or longer.
They gain 7.8 yards on average when down is 3rd-and-7 to 3rd-and-9.
They gain 6.7 yards on average when down is 3rd-and-4 to 3rd-and-6.
They gain 5.9 yards on average when down is 3rd-and-1 to 3rd-and-4.
They can run it, too
The Patriots' running game by committee isn't up to their standard when you look at the surface numbers. Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead and James White ranked 10th in the NFL in total yards (1,889) and 11th in yards per carry (4.2). However, dig a little deeper and it's clear they come up big in critical spots.
New England's run game was actually one of the NFL's best, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, which takes every single run and compares it with the league average based on situation. Only the Saints and Cowboys had a better run DVOA than the Patriots during the regular season.
The Patriots ranked seventh in the league in first-down percentage on running plays. Their backs carried the ball past the chains 107 times, the sixth most during the regular season. The Cowboys led the NFL in rushing first-down percentage at 26.5 percent.
Dion Lewis might be the Patriots' secret weapon. The shifty, 5-8 running back was among the NFL's most elusive backs this season. His elusive rating of 73.2, compiled by Pro Football Focus, trailed only the Saints' Alvin Kamara and the Dolphins' Kenyan Drake, based on his broken tackles (49) and average yards after contact (3.17)
No LeGarrette Blount?No problem. The Patriots aren't afraid to run in goal-line situations. Twelve of the Patriots' 16 rushing TDs came on 1- to 3-yard runs.
It's a long way to the top
The Patriots' premier ability to move the chains will be tested against the Eagles. There's a hidden impact to the Eagles' top-ranked rushing defense, which has held opponents to only 79.2 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. Stopping the run on early downs has put more ground between Eagles opponents and the first-down marker.
Defenses forcing longest third-down situations