Eric McHugh: Patriots by the numbers

Eric McHugh

OK, you all know the big numbers from the Patriots' 2007 regular season:

50 - NFL-record touchdown passes by Tom Brady.

23 - NFL-record TD catches by Randy Moss.

589 - NFL-record points scored.

O – losses.

Now that 2007 has given way to 2008 and the Patriots are chillin' (literally and figuratively) while the Titans, Jaguars and Steelers decide who is coming to Gillette Stadium on Saturday night, Jan. 12 for an AFC divisional-round playoff game, let's check out some other, less obvious, numbers from the perfect season that was.

6 – Playoff teams the Patriots beat. That includes four division champs (Chargers, Cowboys, Colts, Steelers) and two wild cards (Redskins, Giants). The Patriots also clobbered the 10-win Browns, who didn't qualify for the postseason. The most amazing aspect of that 16-0 overall mark is how much of it was forged against the league's iron. The only “elite” teams the Pats didn't face were the 13-3 Packers and the 11-5 Jaguars.

Much has been made of the easy schedule the perfect '72 Dolphins navigated en route to their 14-0 finish. It's true that Miami played only two teams with winning records (the 8-6 Chiefs and 8-6 Giants), although all three of their playoff victims – Browns (10-4), Steelers (11-3) and Redskins (11-3) - were regular-season standouts. In terms of degree of difficulty, the Pats also have a clear advantage over each of the four teams in NFL history who went 15-1 in the regular season. The breakdown:

2007 Patriots (16-0) – beat 6 playoff teams (4 division champs)

2004 Steelers (15-1) – beat 3 playoff teams (2 division champs)

1998 Vikings (15-1) – beat 4 playoff teams (2 division champs)

1985 Bears (15-1) – beat 4 playoff teams (1 division champ)

1984 Niners (15-1) – beat 4 playoff teams (1 division champ)

117.2 – Brady's passer rating, which was second best all-time. Wondering why he was runner-up to Peyton Manning (121.1 in 2004) when Brady had more TD passes (50-49), fewer interceptions (8-10), more passing yards (4,806-4,557) and more completions (398-336)? It's because he also had more attempts (578-497).

The passer rating formula is bizarre. The full explanation can be found on Page 360 of the 2007 NFL Record & Fact Book, but don't bother looking it up; it'll just give you a headache. The simple explanation is that the rating formula rewards efficiency, not just pure production, and Manning in 2004 had better numbers in yards gained per pass attempt (9.17-8.31) and TD percentage (9.86-8.65) than Brady in '07, even though Brady's INT percentage was lower. Had Brady posted the same passing yards, TDs and INTs with just 20 fewer attempts, he would have beaten Manning in the ratings chase, 121.3-121.1.

If you have nothing better to do, check out, where you can plug in QB numbers and see the ratings they would generate.

138 – Team-high points for Moss (23 TDs, worth six points each). He edged out kicker Stephen Gostkowski (74 PATs, 21 field goals) by one point for the title. (They finished 2-3 in the league behind Packers kicker Mason Crosby with 141 points.)

It's the first time a non-kicker has led the Pats in scoring since 1988, when running back Robert Perryman paced the club with – get this – a mere 36 points (on six TDs). That season the Pats' kicking duties were split between Jason Staurovsky (35 points) and Teddy Garcia (29 points), whose combined total would have left Perryman's in the dust.

The last time one Patriots offensive player outscored the kicker(s) was 1983, when running back Tony Collins had 60 points on 10 rushing TDs. The only other non-kicker to lead his team in scoring this season was Saints receiver Marques Colston (66 points on 11 TD catches).

1,493 – Franchise-record receiving yards for Moss, on 98 catches. It was the second-highest yardage total of his career (1,632 in 2003) and No. 2 in the NFL this season behind Indy's Reggie Wayne (1,510 on 104 receptions).

99 – Tackles for Tedy Bruschi. It's the second straight year he's topped the Pats' list after finishing no higher than No. 2 in any of his first 10 seasons. He also made 16 starts for only the fourth time in his career (2000, 2003, 2004).

83 – Tackles for Ty Warren. That was No. 2 on the team but far off the career-best 117 he posted in last year's breakout season. He also had just four sacks, down from 7.5 in 2006. Does that mean he slumped? Not, but he certainly didn't have as many obvious big plays, which is why Vince Wilfork got the Pats' lone Pro Bowl nod among the defensive linemen. Warren was robbed a year ago. Slights such as that are often rectified the following season, but Warren didn't generate quite enough buzz this year to convince voters that they had erred.

0 – Catches for Troy Brown, the first time the 15-year veteran was blanked in a season since 1994, his second year in the league. Back then he appeared in just nine games; this year he got into just one – the Week 16 home win over the Dolphins. He was on the field for only five snaps that day (one of which was nullified by a penalty), but Brady never threw in his direction. Too bad.

16 – Games played for linebacker Junior Seau. It's the first time he's made it through a full season intact since 2001 with the Chargers. He had ended each of the last three seasons on injured reserve, succumbing to a broken arm in Week 12 last year. He finished with 76 tackles (well off his pace from 2006 when he had 70 in just 11-plus games) but good enough for fifth on the team.

8 – Games right guard Stephen Neal missed with a shoulder injury that won't seem to go away. He was on the shelf for Games 2-4, 10, and 13-16 with Billy Yates (one start) and Russ Hochstein (seven) filling in ably. It's rare for the Patriots to carry a chronically injured player this long on the active roster. Guess they think Neal can get healthy for the playoffs.

15 – Giveaways, setting a new franchise record. Even the 1982 Patriots, who played only nine games because of the players' strike, turned it over more (17 times). The previous record for a full 16-game schedule was 22 giveaways, set in 1997. No surprise, the Patriots' six lost fumbles represented a franchise low, and the nine INTs were the fewest in any year other than 1982, when the Pats also had nine. The record-setting ball security allowed the Patriots to finish with a plus-16 turnover differential, second only to the 2003 team (plus-17) in club history and No. 3 in the league this season behind San Diego (plus-24) and Indy (plus-18).

78 – Accepted penalties the Patriots were flagged for. That was tied for seventh best in the NFL and represented their lowest total since 1994, when they also were hit 78 times. In Bill Belichick's previous seven seasons, their totals ranged from a high of 111 (in 2003) to 92 (in 2001).

The Patriot Ledger