2011 In Review: AFC East Defenses
This is the first in a series looking back at the stats from the 2011 regular season.
Coming into the 2011 season, there was a lot of hype surrounding the AFC East. Many thought that this could be the year that the Jets overtook the Patriots atop the division. After the first few weeks, it looked as if the Patriots would not only have to contend with the Jets but the Bills as well. However, as it has been the case in 8 of the 9 previous seasons when Tom Brady has been healthy, the Patriots reigned supreme in the division. Here’s a look at the four teams’ defenses:
Much was made of the Patriots’ defense, which gave up a historic number of yards this season. However, they were also tops in the division in making their opponent work for a score. The Patriots’ defense yielded one point for every 19.8 yards of offense it gave up. That ended up being more than a yard and a half yards per point than 2nd place Miami:
One of the reasons the Patriots’ defense was so much better than average in YPP was that they forced a lot of turnovers. The Dolphins were the only AFC East team to be below average in TO% (percentage of opponent drives which ended in a defensive takeaway):
The Dolphins topped the division in Points Per Drive allowed, giving up just 1.69 PPD:
Unsurprisingly, the Patriots gave up more yards per drive than their division rivals, with 40.35 YPD, 2nd worst in the league and 24% worse than league average. The Jets led the way with a stingy 26.99 YPD – 2nd best in the NFL:
The Jets also led the division in passer rating allowed with an impressive 69.6 – the only team in the AFC East to be better than the 82.5 league average.
Perhaps as a result of their quality pass defense, the Jets saw opponents pass the ball 2.53% less frequently than league average. The Bills faced the lowest percentage of pass plays in the division -their opponents threw just 53.44% of the time. The Patriots faced passes most frequently, a combination of often having big leads and a porous secondary.
The Dolphins had the best run defense, allowing a meager 3.7 yards per rushing attempt. Both the Bills and Patriots were worse than average at stopping the run:
The Patriots had 40 sacks on the year, second best in the division to the Dolphins’ 41, however they had fewer sacks per pass play than both the Dolphins and Jets:
The Bills gave up touchdowns the most frequently, allowing opponents to find the end zone on 28.32% of their drives – significantly worse than the league average 20.99%.
The Jets had the clear cut best defense in the league and the Bills had the worst. The Dolphins and Patriots were both good in some ways and bad in others. Miami gave up about 1.5 fewer points per game, but also forced far fewer turnovers than New England and scored only 1 defensive TD to New England’s 3. In adjusted PPG, the Dolphins defense was only .75 points per game better than New England. In my final 2011 defensive efficiency rankings, I had New England ranked slightly ahead of Miami on account of the Patriots’ ability to create takeaways and score points.