The Patriots delivered one of the biggest beat downs in the NFL this season with a 50-10 rout of the Jaguars on Sunday.
Although it’s fair to contextualize a blowout win by adjusting for their opponents’ ineptitude, the Pats offense’s 72% success rate was the highest mark in an NFL game in 2021.
Here's a look at the top games of 2021 *without* opponent adjustments, and the effect that opponent adjustments have had on the ratings. As you can see, each of these games gets penalized for the opponent except for the Patriots over the Browns. pic.twitter.com/1t50uAcvyh
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) January 3, 2022
According to Football Outsiders, if you take out their opponent adjustment weighting, the Patriots’ value over average was the second-best output of the season to date.
By following their winning formula, Bill Belichick’s defense spun the dial on Jags QB Trevor Lawrence, and the Pats offense had a 66% success rate on early downs to stay ahead of the chains. There’s no doubt that there’s a high execution level when they stick to their script.
However, there are still questions about how the Patriots fare when things don’t go as planned. In particular, when they have to open up a more vertical passing offensively.
New England will need to answer those concerns in the playoffs, but, for now, they’ll gladly take a beatdown of the Jaguars, which saw both the offense and defense get back on track.
Here are various advanced stats from the Patriots’ playoff-clinching victory over the Jaguars:
MAC JONES’S PASSING METRICS
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones led the entire NFL through Sunday’s slate in expected points added (0.58) and success rate (69.7%) in his performance against the Jaguars this week.
Regardless of the coverage or pass rush scheme, Jones shredded everything Jacksonville threw at him in a bounce-back game after two shaky weeks versus the Colts and Bills.
On top of the efficiency, the two metrics that stood out from Mac’s day were his average time to throw (2.4-seconds) and his proficiency against a blitz-happy Jaguars defense.
In the Patriots’ back-to-back losses, Jones’s average time to attempt rose to 3.12 seconds, and he was noticeably less successful while holding onto the ball rather than having a quick release.
This week, the quick release was back, as was an excellent showing against the blitz where Jones was 11-of-15 for 114 yards and two touchdowns when Jacksonville sent pressure.
One of those pressure situations came on Jakobi Meyers’ first-half touchdown grab. The Jags tip their cover-zero structure pre-snap near the goal line when Hunter Henry’s short motion indicates man and the safety is at a blitzing depth. Knowing he had Meyers in single coverage against an inside-leveraged corner, Jones threw a dime to the corner route for six.
The Pats have a successful passing script where Jones gets the ball out quickly and attacks the space within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, where he can throw inside or outside.
Now, the question is will that be enough when better defenses know those are his sweet spot?
The biggest mismatch in Sunday’s rout was the Patriots’ offensive line against Jacksonville’s defensive front.
Mac’s quick-release aided the Pats’ O-Line, but Jones was only under pressure on three of his 31 drop-backs, or 9.7%, which was by far the lowest pressure rate of the season.
The Patriots kept Jones protected on 16 Jacksonville blitzes, blocking five-on-five in the example above to keep Mac clean to hit an open Hunter Henry over the middle.
In Sunday’s win, New England also had a 58% success rate and added 0.14 expected points per rush.
If the Patriots want to make a postseason run, they’ll need their offensive line to lead the way.
DEFENSIVE PRESSURES & RUN STOPS
Although the Patriots’ pressure rate doesn’t jump off the page (29%), the Pats defensive front impacted Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s throws far more than they did a week ago.
Leading the way once again was second-round pick Christian Barmore, who now has 45 quarterback pressures this season, trailing only DeForest Buckner (48) for the most by a rookie defensive tackle in the last six seasons.
Barmore registered his first official full sack on a T/E stunt with Chase Winovich. Barmore’s rush splits the right guard and tackle while Winovich wraps around him on the pick play. When the right guard comes off Barmore to pick up Wino, the Pats’ rookie breaks through for the sack.
Along with Barmore, the Patriots executed a well-timed simulated pressure on Jacksonville’s opening drive, leading to a Dont’a Hightower sack.
In the play, Hightower and Bentley run a twist blitz from off the line while the Pats’ edge defenders drop into coverage on a replacement pressure. Bentley draws two Jags blockers on his blitz, which leaves Hightower unblocked to the quarterback.
New England generated heat on Lawrence despite top pass-rusher Matthew Judon only rushing the quarterback three times on 11 total snaps after fighting COVID-19 during the week.
Like the offensive line, the Pats need their pass rush to find a groove to play the style of coverage that best suits their secondary.
Jacksonville didn’t run the ball much against New England due to the score, but when they did, they were only successful on 38 percent of their rush attempts and subtracted EPA (-0.12).
Pats linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley led the team with three run stops. However, it was safety Kyle Dugger’s stop that flashed during our tape review.
Dugger starts from a deep safety alignment in the play and “buzzes” down into the box as a backside filler. When the ball carrier cuts back, Dugger makes the stick. He was one of the last defenders on that side of the field, so Dugger’s sure-tackling saved a big play.
Although it wasn’t a high-stress day for the run defense, the Patriots were good there too.
After the Bills exposed the Patriots in man coverage last week, Bill Belichick returned to a zone-heavy game plan against the Jaguars that yielded much better results.
The Pats defense was in zone coverage on 58.1 percent of their coverage snaps, intercepting Lawrence twice and holding him to 5.2 pass yards per attempt.
New England’s secondary is at its best when leaning on its ability to disguise, thanks to having three versatile safeties who can change the coverage shell on the fly to confuse quarterbacks.
For example, Kyle Dugger and Myles Bryant’s interceptions came on “buzz” coverage schemes where the Patriots started in a two-high shell and rotated into cover-three. In Dugger’s pick, they use a “double buzz” scheme, while Bryant’s interception is a simple 3-buzz call.
If the Pats accept that they don’t have the man coverage talent to go one-on-one against high-powered offenses and embrace zone rotations, they’ll be successful.