This "New England can't win without Ty Law" thing will soon take on a life of its own.
We'll have a full preview of the Indianapolis-New England game, and all the divisional contests, but we wanted to nip this Law thing in the bud Monday morning before it grows into a stinking, gangly weed that chokes off the nutrients of common sense and perspective. Otherwise, the media will have you convinced by Wednesday that the 14-2 defending Super Bowl champions have absolutely no shot against 13-4 Indy even though they're playing in an arena that will have gone 755 days since hosting a New England loss.
We've heard for weeks now that New England's secondary has been "exposed" with Law on the sidelines. The truth is quite a bit different. Sometimes you wonder if folks in the media actually pick up a gamebook or look at the statlines. Apparently, that's not as sexy as crafting an inane storyline. But here's something they don't seem to be aware of: in nine games since Law's been out of the lineup, the Patriots have more interceptions (14) than touchdown passes allowed (12).
Fortunately, perspective and common sense are cultivated by the green thumb of the gridiron, the Cold, Hard Football Facts, which quickly nipped this Law thing in the bud. This is what you bring up at the water cooler when someone tells you the Patriots can't win in the playoffs without Law.
• In six games with Law in the lineup, the Patriots surrendered 90 points, or 15.0 points per game.
• In nine games without Law in the lineup, the Patriots surrendered 136 points, or 15.1 points per game.
• The Patriots gave up four TD passes in six games with Law in the lineup (0.67 per game).
• The Patriots gave up 12 TD passes in nine games without Law in the lineup (1.3 per game).
• The Patriots surrendered a total of 18 TD passes this year (1.1 per game). Only six teams were stingier in pass defense. (New England also gave up two touchdown passes during the Pittsburgh game in which Law was injured.)
• New England intercepted seven passes with Law in the lineup (1.2 per game).
• New England intercepted 14 passes without Law in the lineup (1.6 per game).
• New England intercepted 21 passes this season. Only six teams intercepted more. None of those six teams (Carolina, Buffalo, San Diego, Seattle, Houston and Baltimore) is still in the playoffs.
• Despite the fact that the New England secondary has been "exposed," only one team, Cincinnati, passed for more than 300 yards and more than two touchdowns against it. (Kansas City passed for 353 yards and two touchdowns with one interception; Seattle, facing Law in the secondary, passed for 341 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions.)
• The Patriots are one Tom Brady hairball against Miami away from being 9-0 without Law in the lineup.
We left the Pittsburgh game out of the equation because Law was injured during the game and we weren't really sure how to work it into the comparisons without divvying up the game based on the time he went down.
But Pittsburgh did score all 34 points after Law went down in the first quarter. So even if we include the entire game in the without-Law equation, the Patriots have surrendered 17.0 points per game since he's been injured. Of course, that's how many points per game the Patriots surrendered in 2001. That season ended with New England shutting down the St. Louis Rams which, as you will see later this week, was a much stronger team than the 2004 Colts.
The bottom line is this: Ty Law's a great, great player and the Patriots would certainly be better off were he healthy and ready to play. But even without Law in the lineup, the New England secondary has remained one of the strongest in football, while players like Don Davis, Earthwind Moreleand, Randall Gay and Troy Brown have, as a unit, acquitted themselves quite well.
In fact, if we look only at the statistical performance, there's been little to no drop off in the secondary's performance with Law on the sidelines.