Advanced Stats Report: Doubling DeAndre Hopkins Backfired on the Patriots Defense

The Patriots defense dedicated double teams to take Hopkins away, but Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson shredded them elsewhere.

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Below are a variety of advanced stats from the Patriots’ 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans.

TOM BRADY’S PASSING CHART

Contrary to the Monday morning narratives, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had an average night at the office against the Texans on Sunday.

But average doesn’t cut it for a six-time Super Bowl champion.

Brady received 70.6 out of 100 game-grade from Pro Football Focus, which is a starter-level performance, albeit in the lower end of that tier.

Brady was eight-for-19 on passes of ten or more yards and gained 149 of his 326 yards on passes over the middle, and his production to the middle of the field is promising.

However, the story of Brady’s night was in the time to throw department, which coincides with the general belief that he was off his game against the Texans defense.

Brady’s average time to release in the loss of 3.21 seconds was by far a season-high, surpassing his Week 9 mark of 2.73 seconds.

As the numbers suggest, Brady had time and space in the pocket to wait for his receivers to uncover downfield, but there’s a clear disconnect in that area right now.

Although the receivers are the main issue, there were a few reads on the TV copy that gave me pause upon review — poor decisions by Brady based on the coverage that he usually gets right.

Here, the Patriots have a high-low read set up for Brady along the left sideline. Edelman runs a corner route from a reduced split with tight end Matt LaCosse releasing into the flat. Brady should read the flat defender. If the flat defender backpedals to undercut Edelman’s route, he should take what the defense gives him in the flat. If the flat defender buzzes to LaCosse, he works the corner route. As you can see, the flat defender backs off LaCosse, signaling a throw to the flat for the QB, but Brady still forces the ball to Edelman.

Overall, there were five plays that I docked Brady for as a result of a bad read or throw, meaning the issues with those catching the passes are far more rampant than Brady’s problems.

On this third down play, the Texans have good initial coverage forcing Brady to hold the ball in the pocket. As he resets, he gives a hand signal to rookie Jakobi Meyers to continue up the sideline. Brady throws the ball downfield, but Meyers stops his route.

After the game, Meyers explained that he was trying to fake getting upfield to come back to the quarterback and chalked the play up to being on a different page than Brady.

The Patriots receivers outside of Julian Edelman had a rough performance, and those growing pains are trickling down to Brady. Fair or not, they need him to be better.

OFFENSIVE LINE STATS

As illustrated by Brady’s slow release, the pass protection held up well for the Patriots until the Texans started pinning their ears back late in the game.

In the first three quarters, Brady was only under pressure on ten of his 37 dropbacks, or 27 percent. In the final quarter, Houston got to Brady on six of his 14 dropbacks (42.9 percent).

By in large, protection wasn’t the issue for the New England offense, and starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn delivered another strong performance in his second game back from injury.

Wynn allowed only one hurry protecting Brady’s blindside from Texans pass rusher Whitney Mercilus, but the heat came from the opposite side with right tackle Marcus Cannon.

Cannon, who is still battling remnants of the Foxboro flu that swept through the Patriots locker room last week, had major issues staying in front of Houston’s Jacob Martin. Martin’s first step and bend off the edge was a difficult combination for the bigger Cannon, who couldn’t get low enough to get his hands on Martin as he screamed around the edge.

The Pats also got a down game in the stat sheet from left guard Joe Thuney. Thuney allowed a team-high five pressures, including three hits, but was better than the numbers suggest.

If you’re looking for people to blame for the loss, the offensive isn’t on the list. They held up their end of the bargain, keeping Brady clean on nearly 70 percent of his dropbacks.

SLOT PERFORMANCE

The Patriots got a season-high 99 receiving yards from Julian Edelman on his 35 pass routes operating out of the slot.

Edelman now has the fourth-most receiving yards out of the slot in the NFL this season (574).

First, we’ll take a look at Edelman’s 44-yard reception where offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels finally created a big play through scheme. The Pats have two receivers to Brady left with only Phillip Dorsett detached on the right side of the formation. Houston plays a form of cover-3 zone, and the Pats flood the weak side of the field by sending Dorsett vertical, White into the flat, and Edelman on a crosser from the opposite side. With Edelman coming across, it’s on the weakside linebacker to pick up his route, otherwise, there’s nobody there to defend him. The Houston defender lets Edelman run free, and the Pats get a big play.

Edelman also caught his fourth touchdown from a slot alignment late in Sunday night’s loss.

On the play, the Texans are in zone coverage once again, and Edelman goes straight up the seam. As the corner moves to the outside, Edelman tucks the route inside, and Brady puts it on him in a perfect spot.

Despite Houston’s best efforts, they doubled Edelman routinely, he still found ways to produce hauling in six catches for a game-high 106 yards.

DEFENSIVE PRESSURES & RUN STOPS

The Patriots managed to get after Deshaun Watson on nearly 38 percent of his drop-backs, but there was both good and bad, as was the case in many areas on Sunday night.

Let’s start with the good, where Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower led the way for the New England defense. The Pats also deployed spies on Watson when they played man coverage.

On the first third down of the game, the Pats used safety Terrence Brooks in the box as a spy with man coverage in the secondary. With the spy there to contain, the Pats stunt Van Noy and Hightower on the right side, and both Pats linebackers break through. Watson is flushed out of the pocket, where Brooks meets him to force a throwaway.

The Pats got a big third-down sack from KVN later on. This time, Devin McCourty disguises his spy assignment by acting like he’s doubling DeAndre Hopkins, something the Patriots often did. The Texans get their signals crossed on the left side, leaving Van Noy unblocked, and he brings down Watson. If Watson had more time, he had Kenny Stills running free on a crossing pattern in the secondary.

Although there were good plays, the Texans were ready for the zero blitz schemes and shredded them with smart decisions by both their receivers and quarterback.

Plus, the Pats defense failed to get timely pressure on Watson when they dialed up the zeroes.

Here, the Pats send the house at Watson, but Houston blocks the immediate threats leaving only the furthest defender to the outside (KVN) unblocked. Van Noy’s slight pause gives Watson another half a second, and Hopkins gets away from Gilmore for a 27-yard gain. Gilmore is playing Hopkins with outside leverage, meaning he’s likely expecting Watson’s “hot” to be something like a quick out. But Hopkins breaks inside, and Watson has too much time with so few coverage players roaming in the secondary.

On a positive note, the Pats run defense was a bright spot in an ugly loss, holding the Texans to 2.3 yards per rush.

Leading the way with a team-high five run stops was defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. Guy was the best Pats defender on Sunday night, showing off terrific play strength and technique.

On a typical Sunday, the play along the line of scrimmage would have sufficed, but the Texans had all the answers against the New England pass defense.

COVERAGE STATS

For those that study Bill Belichick’s defense, we all know the hoodie is going to try to take away the opponents top weapon, which in Houston’s case is All-Pro receiver, DeAndre Hopkins.

The Patriots had cornerback Stephon Gilmore to track Hopkins, but Gilmore had help from his safeties with several dedicated doubles on the prolific Texans receiver.

With Hopkins doubled out of the play, Watson relied on his secondary options mostly against man coverage to win their one-on-one matchups, and that’s precisely what they did.

Along with going away from the double-team on Hopkins, the Texans also attacked the Pats linebackers in coverage, and Duke Johnson’s TD was the two strategies colliding. The Pats double Hopkins with Gilmore and McCourty in the middle of the field, leaving the other four eligible receivers in man coverage. Johnson leaks out of the backfield against Kyle Van Noy, who whiffs on a jam attempt and loses Johnson.

On Kenny Still’s long touchdown, the Pats call “one double no. 10” again with the lone deep safety bracketing Hopkins with Gilmore. Watson sees the double and knows he has Stills singled up against Jonathan Jones on the other side of the field. Watson slides up in the pocket and hits a perfect shot to Stills in the back of the end zone.

Although Hopkins only had five catches for 64 yards, a below-average day for him, his impact on the game cannot be understated.

As a former Belichick assistant, O’Brien knew that the hoodie would double Hopkins out of the game. He let him do it and beat the Patriots defense elsewhere.