Patriots offer few handouts in Belichick era

Eric Goska
For Press-Gazette Media
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New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have kept giveways to a minimum since 2000.

The New England Patriots are the team of the century.

Got a beef with that Philadelphia and New York? Not in agreement Indianapolis and Pittsburgh?

Before the bickering starts, let's clarify. When it comes to turnover differential there is New England, the Packers' opponent on Sunday, and the rest of the league.

If this were a race, the Patriots would have lapped the field. In New England, it starts and ends with Bill Belichick. He's in his 15th season as head coach having succeeded Pete Carroll in January 2000.

Belichick is one of eight men to have won more than 200 games. He needs three victories to surpass Curly Lambeau (229 wins) for fourth place all time.

How revered is Belichick? His is the only coaching profile to spill onto a second column in the 2014 NFL Record & Fact Book. Amid the copious text is this nugget: he "has delivered three Super Bowl championships, 11 division crowns and 18 playoff victories."

So, what's the secret to his success?

There are probably more answers to that question than coaches left in his wake. When an organization wins 10 or more games 11 seasons in a row, it is a master of many trades.

That said, some of New England's dominance must be attributed to its refusal to part with the ball more often than its opponents. Though all teams stress the importance of winning the turnover battle, the Patriots are a lesson in how it's done.

This century, Belichick's team is plus-151 in turnover differential. That total is more than twice that of second-place Green Bay at plus-74.

The Patriots have led the league in this category three times (2010-12). The Packers (2002, 2009) and Ravens (2000, 2006) are the only other two-timers.

Beating the Patriots is always a challenge. Stealing a win when they carry the day in turnover differential is next to impossible.

New England is 121-11 (.917) in games when it finishes plus-one or better in turnover differential. At plus-two or more, they are an astounding 73-1 (.986).

That lone loss occurred early in Belichick's career with the team. In 2002, the Broncos overcame two turnovers to defeat a young Tom Brady 24-16 in Foxboro.

That faux pas hasn't been repeated. New England has won its last 62 straight when plus-2 or better.

So why do the Patriots merit this overwhelming differential treatment? Quite simply they disdain coughing up the football.

Oh, other teams have forced more turnovers. The Packers (297), Buccaneers (285) and Ravens (283) have intercepted more passes than the Patriots (279). The Giants (214), Bears (266), Panthers (256) and Lions (183) have recovered more fumbles than New England (181).

But no one, not even the Houston Texans, who didn't field a team until 2002, commits fewer turnovers than New England. The 309 it has surrendered since 2000 include a league-low 174 interceptions.

Under Belichick, the Patriots have led the league in fewest turnovers three times (2007, 2010, 2012). In 2010 they set an NFL record for the fewest in a season with 10.

New England has played 77 turnover-free games this century. It is 69-8 (.896) when doing so.

This is a franchise you imagine would never sponsor a bobblehead giveaway because of the nature of the name.

Already this season, Brady and his offense have steered clear of unsightly turnovers six times. The Patriots won all six by an average of more than two touchdowns.

New England again leads the AFC in turnover differential at plus-11.

If there is a sliver of hope to be found for the Packers come Sunday it is this: Green Bay had forced at least one turnover in each of its last nine games at Lambeau Field and is 6-2-1 in those contests.

Regular-season series

Overall: New England leads 5-4

At Lambeau Field: tied 1-1

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (66-32 overall; 0-0 vs. New England)

Patriots: Tom Brady (157-45; 2-1 vs. Green Bay)

Once a Patriot, now a Packer

There are no former Patriots on the Packers' roster.

Once a Packer, now a Patriot

There are no former Packers on the Patriots' roster.

Differential Treatment

Teams with the greatest turnover differential in regular-season games since 2000.

Diff Team Record

+151 Patriots 172-63 (.732)

+74 Packers 147-87-1 (.628)

+55 Ravens 141-94 (.600)

+51 Buccaneers 106-129 (.451)

+49 Falcons 119-115-1 (.509)

+42 49ers 117-117-1 (.500)

+41 Seahawks 127-108 (.540)

+37 Colts 156-79 (.664)

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