Patriots Sign Stealing

Is there evidence that the New England Patriots benefitted on the field from videotaping their opposition's defensive signals? One indication would be their success in rematch games. If the Patriots have been exploiting signal stealing regularly in past years, we would expect them to have an advantage against teams they play more than once in a season. The Patriots would be expected to score more points in the second game against a given opponent.

Here are the games in which the Patriots played the same opponent twice in a season for the past four years. Each year they play their three division rivals twice, plus they happened to play one of their playoff opponents during the regular season. The points scored by the Patriots in the first meeting and the rematch are listed.










2006Points Scored
Opponent1st Game2nd Game
NYJ2414
MIA200
IND2034
BUF1928
Total8376












2005Points Scored
Opponent1st Game2nd Game
BUF2135
DEN2023
MIA2326
NYJ1631
Total80115













2004Points Scored
Opponent1st Game2nd Game
IND2720
BUF3129
MIA2428
NYJ1323
PIT2027
Total115127












2003Points Scored
Opponent1st Game2nd Game
BUF031
NYJ2321
IND3817
MIA1912
Total8081


Only 2005 shows any real difference in points scored between the first and second games against the same opponent. Even so, we'd have to show that the 8.3 point/game difference in 2005 is significantly outside the normal variation between first and second games between all teams during the same period.

This result does not indicate the Patriots were not cheating by videotaping signals, but it does show they did not benefit signifcantly in points scored during rematch games in recent years.

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2 Responses to “Patriots Sign Stealing”

  1. Dale says:

    First time poster...I appreciate the analysis you are doing here..keep up the good work.

    One nit: you seemed to miss the rematch with the Steelers in 2004. In the first game the Steelers dominated 34-20, but the Patriots rolled in the AFC championship game, 27-41. I know that both Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis have come out and said that they believed the Patriot defense knew the Steelers signals in the two AFC championship games (which is interesting in that they only played once in 2001).

    One other thing to consider is that there may be some in game advantage as well, so the first game may be skewed in the Patriots favor as well due to illegal activities. Simply looking at the difference between the two games suggests the Pats were not using any added intelligence in the first game, which I would find hard to believe since every game would be important to them.

    I don't know that I've seen the definitive answer as to how much of an advantage they've gained, but for years the Patriots we've been hearing how the organization and coaching staff is one of the best, maybe of all time. If there wasn't an advantage to be gained, why would a smart, successful organization such as New England continue to do it?

  2. Brian Burke says:

    I missed that one. I'll see if I can add it.

    I agree on the in-game advantage possibility. See the following post for possible evidence that they've been doing just that.

    And I completely agree with your last point. Belichick must believe he gains an advantage by doing it. In light of the warning he received in GB last year, he kept doing it.

    And the PIT example raises a new question: Has NE been illegally scouting (spying with cameras, etc.) on future opponents during games with other teams? In other words, does NE send out spies to the record signals of upcoming opponents or possible playoff opponents?

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