Several authors at major outlets (starting, I think, with footballoutsiders.com) have noted how the recovery of fumbles in football boils down to luck and not skill. Recalling that the Patriots have been slightly unlucky in this regard in their Super Bowl losses to the Giants, I thought it would be interesting to look at Patriots playoff games since 2001 to see how their fumble recovery rate compared in their playoff wins and losses. I used the boxscores from here. The results were pretty staggering:
In their 17 Tom Brady-era playoff wins, the Patriots have recovered 28 of a possible 48 fumbles (58.3%). In their 7 postseason losses over that time period, the team has recovered just 5 of 20 fumbles (25%). For any readers interested in whether or not this difference is statistically significant, it is (p < 0.05). These numbers highlight how luck can play a vital role in determining the outcomes of football games – the Patriots don’t reach the Super Bowl in 2001 without a bit of fumble luck, and the team might have had a few more recent titles without some recent bad luck.
The table is attached below. A few notes:
-The Patriots have not recovered a single of the five fumbles to hit the ground against the Giants in the last two Super Bowls. They didn’t recover any of the five combined fumbles in the 2012 playoff games against the Texans and the Ravens.
-The Patriots had no right beating San Diego in 2006. The team recovered all five fumbles against the Chargers in that game!
|2012 Playoffs||Total Fumbles||Patriots Recoveries|
|SuperBowl||Sun||5-Feb||New York Giants||L||2||0|
|Division||Sun||16-Jan||New York Jets||L||4||3|
|ConfChamp||Sun||20-Jan||San Diego Chargers||W||2||1|
|SuperBowl||Sun||3-Feb||New York Giants||L||3||0|
|WildCard||Sun||7-Jan||New York Jets||W||2||1|
|Division||Sun||14-Jan||San Diego Chargers||W||5||5|
|SuperBowl||Sun||3-Feb||St. Louis Rams||W||2||1|
Fumble luck continues to play a huge role in Patriots playoff results. In divisional wins over the Colts (2013 season) and Ravens (2014), the Patriots recovered 5 of a possible 6 fumbles.
All together, that’s 33 of 54 fumbles (61%) in playoff wins, versus 5 of 20 (25%) in playoff losses. Seems like a fairly big difference, and I’d be interested in hearing how that compares to game-splits for other teams.
|2014 Playoffs||Total Fumbles||Patriots Recoveries|