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The Patriots Are Even Sneakier Than You Think

Hot Takedown’s Super Bowl Special No NFL team other than the Patriots boasts a first-down success rate above 90 percent on sneaks. And this rate might actually conceal how good New England is: Twenty-one of its sneaks have come when needing 2 yards to go, also the most of any NFL team.4Two-yarders make up 15 percent of the Pats’ sneaks, the 10th-highest proportion in the league. With only 1 yard to go, the Pats have converted the first down on 105 of 113 tries (93 percent).This success begets more success. The 133 Patriots QB sneaks that Pro Football Reference shows were worth a cumulative 138 expected points, the equivalent of about 20 touchdowns.5We used PFR’s play-finder tool to find extra QB sneaks from the Patriots, summing the expected points added on each. As an example, the aforementioned Huard sneak added 2.58 expected points. That’s a net benefit of about a point per QB sneak. Of course, most of the Patriots’ other offensive plays have also been net positives. But their 455 non-QB-sneak rush plays on the same downs and distances have been worth just 0.38 expected points per play.The Huard sneak is a prime example of the play’s effectiveness. According to PFR, it was New England’s fourth-most valuable offensive play that day, worth an estimated 2.6 points. A simple QB sneak that kept a drive going was worth a larger improvement in the Pats’ expected point total than Kevin Faulk’s 15-yard touchdown reception during the third quarter.The frequent success is due largely to two factors. The first: The simplest football play is a constant focus for the Patriots. Huard, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals, the Miami Dolphins, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Francisco 49ers during his 14-year career, said Belichick and the Patriots prioritized the QB sneak more than any other team. “Oh yeah,” he answered simply when asked, adding that while he can’t remember QB sneaks ever being the specific focus of a game plan, Brady, Belichick, the offensive coordinator and the offensive line talked about them on a weekly basis. They practice them, too, a fact that shocked coaches around the league. With 13:33 remaining in the second quarter of a game on Nov. 10, 2002, the New England Patriots faced a 4th-and-1 from their own 39-yard line. Head coach Bill Belichick chose the traditional option and sent out the punt team. But there was one notable exception: Backup quarterback Damon Huard was included among the 11 men on the field.Huard, in his second year with New England, rarely played, and a quarterback isn’t a typical member of the punt team.“I sort of snuck out onto the field, and I was lined up as the personal protector [on the play],” Huard, now an administrator and fundraiser for his alma mater, the University of Washington, said over the phone. “At the last second, I jumped up under center and did a quarterback sneak. We got 4 yards and a first down.”Six plays later, a 57-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri tied the score 3-3, and the Patriots went on to win 33-30.Huard’s quarterback sneak was a single moment in a long game. It didn’t ensure victory for the Patriots, nor did the Chicago Bears’ obliviousness on that fourth down doom them to defeat. But it was emblematic of a hidden theme of the Patriots’ 16-year run of unprecedented success: No team sneaks more often nor more effectively than the Patriots.Since the start of the 2001 season, the Patriots lead the league in QB sneaks, running 0.52 every game, which translates to one roughly every other week.1We define a QB sneak as a middle run from a quarterback on third or fourth down and 1 or 2 yards to go. Shotgun plays are excluded. For comparison, Kansas City, which is last in the league, runs about two QB sneaks per season. Most teams attempt about three or four sneaks in a season, with Jacksonville (0.5 per game or roughly eight per season) and Baltimore (roughly seven per season) the only other teams that approach New England’s frequency. During that period, the Patriots, led by Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, have won 14 of 16 AFC East titles and have been to the Super Bowl seven times, including Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.The QB sneak is a remarkably efficient play, and an excellent way to extend a drive. Leaguewide, the conversion rate2Including both first downs and touchdowns. from 2001 to 2015 on 3rd-and-1 or 4th-and-1 plays that are not QB sneaks is 65 percent — on sneaks, that success rate jumps to 84 percent.3We checked to ensure these numbers weren’t affected by teams’ behavior late in games. In the first and second quarters, success rates are 66 percent (non-sneaks) and 86 percent (sneaks) And there’s a similar story when teams have 2 yards to gain, with sneaks 20 percentage points more successful (75 percent versus 55 percent) relative to other runs or passes.So the sneak is usually a good idea, relative to other play calls. But even compared to that higher baseline, some teams are much better at it than others. The second reason for success is that Brady excels in picking up the yard or two that’s needed for a first down. He’s not fast — notoriously running a pedestrian time at the 2000 NFL combine — but he’s large enough (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) to help push a pile, and he’s “not afraid to stick his face in there,” according to Huard. He’s also adept at reading defenses and determining their weaknesses. Huard saw this firsthand in practice and games: If Brady got to the line and thought he could get 3 or 4 inches, he would sneak. If not, if a massive noseguard and two linebackers were crowding the A-gap, making a sneak difficult, he’d run the play that was called.“It’s a feel thing, a look-and-see thing,” Huard said. “And no one does it better than Tom.”The QB sneak is an example of what the Patriots have done so well over the past 15 years. They find an advantage, and they exploit that advantage relentlessly. It’s so simple yet so effective. Belichick has been benefiting from using it for more than a decade and a half, putting his players into situations where they can succeed and positively affect the outcome.“I wasn’t exactly Randall Cunningham,” Huard said, laughing as he remembered the play from 2002. Brady isn’t, either, but it doesn’t matter. When it comes to the QB sneak, he’s more effective than Cunningham or any other quarterback. This success is a factor in the Patriots’ sustained success.VIDEO: The Patriots better worry about Julio Jones Related: Hot Takedown read more

Friendly Fungi Elucidating the fungal biosynthesis of stipitatic acid

first_img Journal information: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Phys.org) — In a tale worthy of Sherlock Holmes, scientists in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, UK have solved a biochemical mystery that had previously proven elusive for 70 years: How the fungus Talaromyces stipitatus produces stipitatic acid (6), which is a tropolone, one of an atypical group of fungal natural products – that is, small molecules produced by genetically encoded pathways – with a seven-carbon ring. (Most natural products, such as cholesterol or phenylalanine, have five or six carbons in rings.) The researchers used a two-part biosynthetic approach – gene deletion and alternate genetic expression – to investigate the molecular pathway in question. Professor Russell J. Cox, Postgraduate student Jack Davison and other researchers engaged in the study faced several long-standing obstacles to showing that 3-methylorcinaldehyde is the direct product of a fungal nonreducing polyketide synthase (NR-PKS) which most likely appends the methyl group from S-adenosyl methionine during biosynthesis of the tetraketide, and which uses a reductive release mechanism to produce the observed aldehyde. “Gene knockouts have been one of the most useful tools in the toolkit of the biosynthetic chemist,” Cox tells Phys.org, “but knockouts can’t answer complex questions like these. We now make extensive use of heterologous expression – that is, moving the gene to a ‘clean’ host and switching it on.”The scientists then monitor the host organism for the production of new compounds which we isolate and identify. The chemical structure of the new compound tells them a great deal about the chemistry which must have been used to make it. “In this case,” Cox continues, “we showed that the TropA gene encodes a polyketide synthase which makes 3-methylorcinaldehyde. Expression also allows us to do more complex experiments – for example, by truncating or mutating the gene – and in this way we discovered the reductive release mechanism and the fact that the programmed methylation occurs during chain extension rather than after chain-building and ring formation.”Tropolone biosynthesis was one of the longest-standing problems in the field of biosynthesis and some of the most distinguished organic chemists of the last century were fascinated by it, but progress had been very limited. “We realized that combining chemical knowledge with genome sequence data could give us the start we needed,” Cox explains. “We already knew a lot about polyketide biosynthesis in fungi, and this allowed us to narrow down the potential genes involved to just four. We then used chemical knowledge to narrow this further to a single gene cluster.” Proof then came from the knockout and expression studies. Explore further Copyright 2012 Phys.Org All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of PhysOrg.com. More information: Genetic, molecular, and biochemical basis of fungal tropolone biosynthesis, PNAS May 15, 2012 vol. 109 no. 20 7642-7647, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201469109 Involvement of tspks1 (tropA) in the biosynthesis of methylorcinaldehyde and tropolones in T. stipitatus. PKS domains: SAT, starter unit acyl transferase; KAS, ketosynthase; AT, acyl transferase; PT, product template; ACP, acyl carrier protein; CMeT, C-methyl transferase; R, acyl CoA thiolester reductase. HPLC analysis of tspks1 KO: (A) UV chromatogram at 260 nm for WT T. stipitatus; (B) UV chromatogram at 260 nm for T. stipitatus tspks1 KO. HPLC analysis of tspks1 expression in A. oryzae: (C) UV chromatogram at 293 nm for untransformed A. oryzae; (D) UV chromatogram at 293 nm for A. oryzae expressing aspks1; (E) UV chromatogram at 293 nm for A. oryzae expressing tspks1. Copyright © PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201469109 Looking ahead, the team is currently working on systematic methods to express many genes in fungi. “At present this is easy in bacteria, because in bacteria a single promoter can switch on lots of genes in parallel,” notes Cox. “In fungi, however, each gene needs its own promoter, so this has limited progress. In collaboration with our colleagues in the School of Biological Sciences at Bristol we’re developing systems which can express a dozen or so fungal genes in parallel. This will allow the researchers to investigate much more complex systems in the future.In addition, Cox adds, “I do believe that computational biology and chemistry will eventually provide answers to complex questions like this – but at the moment, while computational methods allow us to formulate good questions, lab work is still needed to find the answers. We’re working in an area with very many unknowns, so it’s difficult for computational methods which rely on current knowledge to act predictively with any accuracy. In fact,” notes Cox, “this is a powerful reason why fundamental discoveries are still so important: they’ll form the basis for future predictions.”Cox points out that he and his team will also continue to study the TropB-D enzymes in vitro. “Chemical methods of classical enzymology will allow us to determine their precise mechanisms.”Cox also articulates how comparing the T. stipitatus tropolone biosynthetic cluster with other known gene clusters allows clarification of important steps during the biosynthesis of other fungal compounds, including the xenovulenes, citrinin, sepedonin, sclerotiorin, and asperfuranone. “Fungal genomes generally are much bigger than their bacterial counterparts by roughly 10 times, and they contain many more genes and gene clusters encoding the biosynthesis of complex compounds” he explains. “Barely any of the known fungal gene clusters have been linked to the molecules they must encode. Our work now allows the understanding of a set of genes which encodes the biosynthesis of polyketides followed by oxidative modifications and these occur frequently in fungi. Until now these clusters were mysterious, but now we can – at least partially – begin to understand what they may do. Secondly, knowledge of the gene clusters will allow us to go hunting for new clusters more effectively.” For example, puberulic acid is a potent antimalarial compound, but its gene cluster is unknown – and the team predicts that the cluster should be very similar to the T. stipitatus tropolone gene cluster.In terms of other research and applications that might benefit from their findings, Cox says that understanding biosynthetic pathways is a key strand of the new science of Synthetic Biology. “One can think of the gene clusters and biosynthetic enzymes they encode as building blocks of new biological entities. In the future,” he concludes, “it will be possible to combine the genetic and chemical knowledge of biosynthetic pathways to produce bioactive compounds – such as drugs and agrochemicals – using biology rather than chemistry. This offers huge advantages in terms of sustainability.” Citation: Friendly Fungi: Elucidating the fungal biosynthesis of stipitatic acid (2012, May 18) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2012-05-friendly-fungi-elucidating-fungal-biosynthesis.html How tropolones synthesized in fungi: 70-year-old chemical mystery solved This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more