After the Patriots first Super Bowl victory with Tom Brady at the helm, Gillette Stadium was opened for business the following season. It was 2002 and many things have changed across the NFL since then. One thing that has been constant however is the dominance of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick-led Patriots.
In the 13 seasons since Gillette stadium was built, the Patriots have hosted 16 playoff games. Of those 16, 13 of them were Patriots wins. They have been absolutely dominant at home in the playoffs.
The Chiefs have their work cut out for them on Saturday. Just how can it be possible for the Chiefs to go into New England and come away victorious in January? I took a look back at all of the post season games for the Patriots and tried to find if there was any type of blueprint for beating the Patriots in Gillette Stadium in the postseason.
There will be three parts to this article, the first part focuses on the overall rankings of each team heading into Gillette Stadium, the second part will deal with what happened in the individual playoff games, and the last part will talk a little about how Alex Smith fits in with all this.
I hope everyone is ready to do a little reading ....
Patriots Home Playoff Successes Against Team Rankings
Defense travels well in the NFL so I started by looking at how the Patriots fared against top five points per game defenses at home.
Patriots vs Top Five Points Per Game Defenses
The Patriots have won 13 out of 16 playoff games at Gillette. That's a winning percentage of 0.813. Against top five defenses, the Patriots have a winning percentage of 0.667. Small sample size, obviously, but top five defenses fare a little better on the road against the Patriots in the playoffs.
Patriots Against Top 10 Points Per Game Offenses
Patriots average winning percentage: 0.813. Patriots average winning percentage against top 10 offenses: 0.800. This is a slight advantage for teams with top 10 points per game offenses.
Maybe it's better to have a good defense in Gillette than it is to have a good offense. The next step is to look at teams who had top five defenses and top 10 offenses (like the Chiefs do.)
Patriots Against Teams with Top Five Defenses and Top 10 Offenses
|Year||Round||Opponent||Offensive Rank||Defensive Rank||Outcome|
The Patriots have a 0.500 winning percentage against teams with top five defenses and top 10 offenses in the NFL. Small sample size again but it appears this could be reason for some slightly increased optimism for the Chiefs.
Now let's take a look at how the Patriots have fared against teams that are in the top five in forced turnovers.
Patriots Against Teams in the Top Five At Forcing Turnovers
The Patriots do not frequently turn the ball over so it's no shock to see they win against teams that need turnovers to win. We'll file this one under disadvantage.
What about teams that are top five at protecting the ball?
Patriots Against Teams with Top Five Fewest Giveaways
The Patriots have fared slightly worse than average against top five turnover teams. Their win percentage is still 0.750 though.
I wanted to look into the Patriots win / loss percentage against teams that were top five in both turnovers given away and turnovers forced but the Chiefs are the first such team the Patriots will face in the postseason in Gillette Stadium.
So to recap the first part I'll add one more little table.
|Rank||Win% vs Rank||Average Win%||Difference|
|Top 5 Defense||0.667||0.813||-0.146|
|Top 10 Offense||0.800||0.813||-0.013|
|Top 5 TO Forced||1.000||0.813||0.187|
|Top 5 TO Given||0.750||0.813||-0.063|
Generally speaking, the Patriots have done slightly worse against teams that have top five defenses, top 10 offenses, and are in the top five for taking care of the ball. The Patriots still win a surprising number of these games.
It is all fun and good to look at these stats but I don't feel as though they provide much information on how to beat the Patriots in New England. Sure a few of these can give a little more optimism but there is nothing here to make me think the Chiefs have very good chances on Saturday. The Patriots are just really, really good at home in the playoffs with Tom Brady and Belichick at the controls.
We'll throw the rankings aside and see how the Patriots won or lost while the games were actually being played.
Patriots vs Opponents Total Passing Numbers
|Patriots Have:||More Pass Attempts||More Passing Yards||Better Yards Per Pass Attempt|
The numbers are the percentages of times the Patriots won given the above circumstances. For instance, in games the Patriots won, they had more pass attempts than their opponents 31 percent of the time. But what does this mean? The Patriots aren't having to air the ball out more than their opponents to win playoff games at Gillette Stadium. Oddly enough, in the playoff games the Patriots have lost at home they throw the ball more than the opposing team 100 percent of the time.
Objective No. 1: The goal is to get ahead early and make the Patriots one-dimensional
Obviously Brady has won many, many a game with his arm. I find this to be a really, really odd thing to say but it worked for the teams who were able to do the near impossible and beat the Patriots in their house during the playoffs. And it happens to be one of the models the Chiefs have followed this season.
Patriots vs Opponents Total Rushing Numbers
|Patriots Have:||More Rush Attempts||More Rushing Yards||Better Yards Per Rush Attempt|
In each of the games the Patriots lost they did not have more rushing yards or rushing attempts than their opponents.
Objective No. 2: Beat the Patriots in the run game
This doesn't mean if the Chiefs run the ball better than the Patriots they win. Last season the Patriots won a playoff game with 13 rush attempts for 14 yards. It does mean that teams who have beaten the Patriots in the postseason at Gillette have been able to run the ball better than the Patriots.
Patriots vs Opponent Turnover Numbers
|Patriots Have:||Win TO Margin||No Forced TOs||No Turnovers Lost|
The Patriots have never lost a playoff game in Gillette Stadium when they did not turn the ball over. They have won the turnover margin in 69 percent of their victories. This means the Patriots are good enough at home to overcome a negative turnover margin. The Patriots have never won a playoff game in Gillette Stadium where they did not force a turnover.
The next objectives are true in every game but:
Objective No. 3 - Do not turn the ball over
Objective No. 4 - Force Turnovers
Since we've talked about what is needed to beat the Patriots, let's talk about some of the things that are NOT needed to beat the Patriots.
Prolific Passing Attack
In the three games the Patriots lost at home in the playoffs at Gillette their opponents had 34, 194, and 240 total passing yards. Mark Sanchez won one of the playoff games for the Jets. The Chiefs do not have to go into the game throwing the ball like 1984 Dan Marino to win. It's shocking to see the Patriots lost a home playoff game where the opposing QB threw for 34 total yards. The game was against the Ravens, Joe Flacco was the QB, and the Ravens ran for 234 yards.
100 Yard Receiver
In none of the games where the Patriots lost did their opponent have a 100 yard receiver. The way to beat the Patriots is to spread your offense throughout your team (which the Chiefs do) so the Patriots can't key in on one player.
Dominate the Time of Possession
In the games I observed there was no linkage between a teams success against the Patriots and the time of possession. It could help to dominate the time of possession but I did not take that away from these postseason games.
Last Second Heroics
When the Patriots have been beaten at home, the average margin of victory for their opponents was 13.67 points. The Patriots have lost by the following scores: 14-33, 21-28, and 13-28. A lot of thought goes into this sort of glorious last second drive beating Tom Brady at home. The truth of the matter is the Patriots don't play close games in Gillette. Of the 16 playoff games at Gillette Stadium, only two of them were decided by three points or less.
When the Patriots win, they win big. Their average point margin in wins is 16.16. The goal for both teams is to get on top, and get on top early.
Where Alex Smith Fits Into All of This
I'd like to toss another stat out just for fun: Alex Smith is 8-0 all time against the AFC East. He is 1-0 against the Patriots. Which leads to a few more fun stats:
- Smith has a career passer rating of 144.4 against the Patriots.
- Alex Smith averages 248 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs against the Patriots.
- Smith has a 77 percent completion percentage lifetime against the Patriots.
The Chiefs will need to play a near perfect game to beat the Patriots in Gillette Stadium. Can they win? Yes. Are they likely to win? Not if they make a number of mistakes.
The Chiefs have the perfect QB (and defense) to replicate what teams have done in the past to beat the Patriots in the postseason at New England. They'll need to take care of the ball, win the rushing attack, get ahead early, avoid turnovers and force a few turnovers of their own. If the Chiefs can do this they have a shot at winning in New England.