Advanced Stats Report: Patriots Defense, Julian Edelman Deliver Sixth Lombardi Trophy

The Patriots defense and a spectacular performance from Julian Edelman led New England to a historic sixth Super Bowl victory.

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Below are a variety of advanced stats from the Patriots’ 13-3 win over the Rams in Super Bowl 53:

TOM BRADY’S PASSING CHART

Brady would be the first to tell you that Super Bowl 53 wasn’t his best performance.

 

WAGER ON THE SUPER BOWL WITH A 50% CASH BACK

On initial viewing, it felt like the Rams made Brady hold onto the football by rotating through multiple coverages.

They did play a variety of different man and zone schemes, but Brady’s time to throw was still 2.23 seconds the same as it was in the AFC Championship Game.

The reality is Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had a great plan keeping New England off-balance and keying on some of Brady’s tendencies.

On his first quarter interception, the Rams defense rotates into cover-3, and baits Brady into this contested throw. Typically, when Brady reads a cover-3 defense, he knows he has the hitch on the perimeter if the cornerback is playing off coverage, and he’ll take that five yards all day long. But Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who’s the slot defender on that side of the field, jumps underneath Hogan’s route reading Brady’s eyes. Robey-Coleman deflects the ball in the air, and linebacker Cory Littleton picks off the pass.

The Rams continued to take away some of Brady’s favorite routes by focusing on tight end Rob Gronkowski and changing up the coverages similar to how the Pittsburgh Steelers defended the New England offense in Week 15.

However, the Patriots offense woke up in the fourth quarter thanks to a heady adjustment by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

On New England’s last two drives of the game, the Patriots put two tight ends on the field to put the Rams in their base defense and then spread the field.

The Patriots ran “hoss Y juke” on three consecutive plays, one of their favorite route concepts, out of 22-personnel (1 WR, 2 RB, 2 TE) with fullback James Develin and tight end Dwayne Allen joining Gronk, Edelman and Rex Burkhead.

On Gronk’s 29-yard catch, the Patriots went empty with Develin and Burkhead flexed out wide with Gronk, Allen and Edelman inside the formation. With an extra linebacker on the field, the Rams matched this look with a linebacker on Gronk. Brady decides to go to his tight end on the seam route before the ball is snapped for one of the biggest plays of the game.

Brady didn’t perform at his usual Super Bowl level, but he capitalized on a terrific defensive effort to capture his sixth Lombardi Trophy with a strong finish.

PASS PROTECTION

The Patriots’ offensive line deserves an award for their performance throughout the postseason.

Against the Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald, and a ferocious LA defensive front, Brady was only under pressure on 18.9 percent of his drop-backs.

The GOAT’s time to throw was a factor again at 2.23 seconds as mentioned above, but this group is stellar, and the rock of an offense that leaned on their pass protection and run blocking to set the tone in all three playoff games.

In the passing game, the Patriots threw multiple bodies at Donald and also keyed on Ndamukong Suh.

On this critical third down conversion to Julian Edelman, the Patriots double Donald with left guard Joe Thuney and center David Andrews while chipping Suh on the edge with Gronk. Although he’s doubled, Thuney’s balance and punch out of his pass set are superb, and then Andrews comes over to stifle Donald.

Brady was sacked for the first time this postseason, but that was on the quarterback for holding onto the ball, and he was only hit one other time.

RUNNING GAME

Usually, we don’t do a running game section, but it’s the Super Bowl, and the Patriots ran out of the stadium with the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.

The first of two 26-yard runs to make it a ten-point game was a thing of beauty by the guys up front.

The Patriots used left guard Joe Thuney as a puller from left to right allowing them to double Donald at the point of attack. Right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon move the powerful Donald out of the gap, and then Cannon “gets two” climbing to the linebacker. Thuney pops the other linebacker, Allen kicks out the end and Sony Michel is off to the races.

The New England offense at its core was a heavy personnel team in the playoffs and rode the offensive line to a championship.

SLOT PERFORMANCE

Led by Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, Brady was by far at his best throwing to receivers working out of the slot.

Gronk and Edelman combined for 162 receiving yards from inside, and Edelman averaged nearly four yards per route run out of the slot.

We already went over Gronk’s 29-yarder, so let’s dedicate the tape here to the MVP.

The best part of Edelman’s game is his ability to keep his body clean with terrific hand usage and route running in his stem and at the top of his breaks.

On this 25-yard completion against Rams slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman, Edelman burns Robey-Coleman with an inside release and then clears his body with an inside arm swipe to eliminate the Rams cornerbacks jam at the top of the route. From there, he cuts to the outside creating a massive amount of separation.

Another part of Edelman’s game that’s terrific is his processing speed and recognition skills.

His longest catch of the day was a 27-yarder in the third quarter against cornerback Marcus Peters. The Patriots motioned Edelman before the snap, tipping off man coverage to Brady. The motion also forces Peters to play aggressively at the line of scrimmage to have a shot at jamming Edelman, but the Pats wideout quickly reads that Peters is setting outside and immediately releases vertically downfield to the inside. That might’ve been the route call, but my guess is that Edelman made a split-second decision to exploit the coverage.

The defense won the Patriots a title, but Edelman was the best offensive player for either team in the game.

PASS RUSH/RUN STOPS

For the last two weeks, the Patriots defense heard all about the Rams offensive line that was named the best offensive line in the NFL this season this past weekend.

On Super Bowl Sunday, it was the Patriots’ defensive front that won the day flawlessly executing the game plan.

The New England defense pressured Rams quarterback Jared Goff on 42.9 percent of his drop-backs with a variety of five-man pressure packages, and a few perfectly timed zero blitzes.

Let’s start with the five-man pressures that featured a heavy dosage of linebackers Kyle Van Noy (team-high five pressures) and Dont’a Hightower (team-high two sacks) in the rush plan.

As they have since the bye week, the Patriots utilized a series of different stunts and games to get free runs at Goff.

Here, the Patriots have three down linemen with Hightower and Van Noy in two-point stances over the guards. With five across, the Patriots know they’ll get one-on-one matchups across the board. Van Noy then wraps around inside penetration from defensive tackle Adam Butler, and with the running back releasing downfield and the guard and center exchange going awry, there’s nobody to pick up Van Noy who blows up Goff forcing an errant throw.

On both of Hightower’s sacks, he used a slant rush as apart of a line stunt to get quick inside penetration.

The Patriots are in the same alignment as the Van Noy play above, and use Van Noy as the wrap player again going around Butler and Hightower’s inside rushes. However, Hightower catches Rams right guard Austin Blythe oversetting to the outside and jumps inside and into the backfield almost immediately forcing a long field goal attempt.

After mixing in these five-man pressures, and showing zero blitz looks early on, the Patriots waited for one of the biggest moments in the game to send the house at Goff.

On Stephon Gilmore’s interception, the Patriots brought six rushers with Van Noy showing blitz before dropping into an underneath zone. On the offenses right, the Pats brought both safety Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon opting to remove the deep safety from the back half of the defense, which was made easier by the field position. McCourty occupies the running back giving Harmon a clear path to Goff. Knowing the rush will get home, the Patriots have their corners keep their eyes in the backfield despite operating on man principles in off-coverage. Gilmore admitted after the game he had this one the whole way.

RUN DEFENSE

Although the rush and coverage will get most of the praise, the Patriots’ game plan defensively started with stopping the run holding the Rams to just 3.4 yards per rush.

By slowing down LA’s potent rushing attack, the Patriots put the game in Goff’s hands where they felt like they had the advantage on the 24-year-old.

New England’s strategy against Sean McVay’s patented wide zone scheme was to use a 4-3 even front, which made it difficult for the Rams to execute the combination blocks that get their running game going, and they also got upfield quickly instead of chasing sideline to sideline.

On this Gurley run, the Patriots are in their 4-3 base defense, and nose tackle Malcom Brown is lined up in the A-Gap between the left guard and center. The Rams try to reach Brown with the left guard, and he aggressively fires into the gap beating Rodger Saffold to the spot to get in the backfield. The alignment also makes it harder on center John Sullivan to chip on Lawrence Guy before climbing to the linebacker giving Guy a single block to hold at the point of attack. Everyone is one-on-one, there are no double teams, and the wide technique by the outside linebacker prevents this run from getting to the perimeter.

COVERAGE STATS

The Patriots held Goff to 229 passing yards and six yards per attempt thanks to a great marriage between the rush and coverage.

In the secondary, the Patriots completely flipped the script on McVay and the Rams.

For most of the season, including the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots were an aggressive man coverage team playing the most man coverage in the league.

But against the Rams, the New England coaching staff thought mixing in some zone coverages would take LA by surprise and was the best way to slow down an explosive offense.

McVay’s scheme creates shot plays downfield off of play-action better than any team in the NFL.

During the regular season, Goff’s 10.0 yards per play-action attempt led the league, but the Patriots lowered that number to 8.7 yards per attempt in the Super Bowl.

The plan was to play quarters or cover-4 zone, dropping four deep defenders across the backend of the secondary to take away McVay’s go-to deep crossers.

On Kyle Van Noy’s sack, the Rams run a fake fly sweep and play-action with two receivers releasing downfield and crossing in the middle of the field on a mesh concept. The Patriots defense takes away all of Goff’s downfield options forcing him to break the pocket, and Van Noy finishes it off with impressive closing speed on the sack.

The other aspect of the Patriots’ coverage strategy was to show Goff and McVay one look, get them to check into something to combat that defense and then change the play after McVay’s communication with Goff shut off at the 15-second mark of the play clock.

Here, the Patriots show a two-high coverage when the Rams offense comes to the line of scrimmage. As you can see, Goff gets word from McVay on the sideline to audible into a two-high beater, but then the Patriots rotate into a post safety coverage right before the snap. The Rams have two slants called at the top of the screen with an underneath crosser out of the bunch set. Goff thinks he has the crosser with the safeties deep, but Chung rotated down into the area where Josh Reynolds runs this route.

There were a number of excellent individual plays, like Gilmore’s interception and Jason McCourty’s touchdown-saving pass breakup, but the communication and cohesion of the secondary was spectacular.

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