FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots’ top-ranked offense has owed much of its success to efficiency on third down, a league-leading 53.2 percent (83 of 156).
“I think, ultimately, it comes down to execution,’’ coach Bill Belichick said Friday. “Some of that, of course, is the situation that you’re in. Nobody in the league is converting 50 percent of [10-plus yards]. You put yourself in enough long-yardage situations, you won’t convert them.
“Conversely, third and 1, third and 2, you’re up in the 70 percent range league-wide. So the distance you’re in, the situation you’re in, has something to do with it.’’
No team has converted more third-down attempts than the Patriots, who also lead the league in first downs with 309 (175 pass, 109 rush, 25 penalty).
Other than the Patriots, only the Falcons (48.4 percent), Colts (45.4), and Steelers (45.3) have converted better than 45 percent of their third-down attempts.
“I think our third down — just our overall third down production and ability to convert in short yardage and stay on the field offensively — I think we’ve gotten better over the course of the season,’’ said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “I don’t think there’s one specific reason for that. I think Coach [Belichick] has really allowed us to work really hard at that in practice and just try to focus on those situations that really dictate whether or not you can stay on the field.’’
The Patriots have converted more than their fair share of third-down attempts not only because of execution and a heightened sense of urgency, but because of of personnel such as Wes Welker, not only the team’s leading receiver (80 catches, 961 yards) but Tom Brady’s most-targeted receiver on third down.
“Third down is when the prime-time players have to step up,’’ said tight end Aaron Hernandez, who shot a glance to his right at Welker. “That’s why people like Wes Welker step up in those situations. Third down is definitely when you want to make plays, because that’s how you keep the chains moving.’’
Julian Edelman, who had a career-best 222 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns Nov. 18 in a 59-24 romp over the Colts, was optimistic about his availability for Sunday’s game after he was knocked out of the Thanksgiving night victory over the Jets, but not before scoring two more touchdowns.
Edelman, who absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit on an end-around early in the third quarter, has been limited in practice this week and listed on the injury report with a concussion.
“I’m feeling a day better than yesterday, so we’ll see how I feel tomorrow,’’ said Edelman, who was among 15 players listed as questionable. “I’m sure the longer layoff helped everyone. Any time you get a couple of extra days for rest, mentally, physically, it’s always nice.’’
Mankins, Jones out
Left guard Logan Mankins (ankle/calf), defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle), and tight end Rob Gronkowski (arm) were ruled out for Sunday’s game at Miami. Mankins and Jones, who missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, were not spotted during the media-access portion of Friday’s practice.
Mankins will miss his third game in a row and sixth this season, while Jones, whom a league source indicated had been spotted at the stadium in a walking boot, will sit out for the second week in a row.
Gronkowski, who broke his forearm Nov. 18, isn’t expected back for a few more weeks.
Reserve guard Markus Zusevics returned to practice after missing Wednesday and Thursday with an illness.
After staging their first two practices of the week outdoors, the Patriots worked out inside the Dana-Farber Field House. The team conducted its final tune-up in temperatures they’re more likely to encounter for Sunday’s game. “Got a nice sweat going,’’ defensive end Rob Ninkovich said. “I’m sure it doesn’t necessarily replicate the exact temperature it’s going to be for the game, but it’s better than 32, or whatever it is outside right now.’’ . . . Asked how the players planned to prepare for the temperature change in Miami, Welker said, “I don’t know, I guess make sure that you’re in shape, drink plenty of water, eat right, make sure you’re ready for a little bit of heat that we haven’t had up here lately.’’ Does he find it more difficult to go from warm weather to cold, or vice versa? “Personally, warm to cold,’’ Welker said. “That’s definitely tougher.’’ . . . According to ESPNBoston.com, defensive back Sterling Moore left the Patriots’ practice squad to sign with the Dallas Cowboys.