Advanced Stats Report: Russell Wilson Shreds Patriots Defense While Under Pressure

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Below are a variety of advanced stats from the Patriots’ 35-30 loss to the Seahawks in Week 2. 

CAM NEWTON’S PASSING STATS

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton made a statement on Sunday night by leading New England’s offense to a 30-point performance while throwing the football 44 times. 

After a run-heavy script in the opener, the Pats needed Newton to stage a second-half comeback through the air, and he came up a yard short.

Out of 28 quarterbacks that played on Sunday, Newton was 16th in completion percentage over expectation, completing 1.92 percent more of his passes than the model says he should have. 

Although CPOE didn’t love Newton this week, Pro Football Focus did, mainly on his throws of over ten yards in the air. Newton went 15-for-20 for 295 yards on passes beyond ten yards against Seattle after only attempting four passes of ten-plus yards in the season-opener. 

The Pats quarterback received a team-high 86.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus and made it clear to everyone that his right shoulder is doing just fine on several deep throws. 

Plus, his throwing mechanics and footwork, outside of his interception, were tremendous. 

Here, the Patriots run their power play-action concept, where left guard Joe Thuney simulates a power pull to get the linebackers to jump into their run fits. The play-action fake gets Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner to bite, and the Pats sneak Ryan Izzo behind him. Newton’s mechanics are flawless on the throw. He keeps his feet balanced and light, uses a strong hitch-step to gain forward momentum, steps into the throw with a great weight transfer while keeping his shoulders level, and uncorking his torso to generate velocity—textbook stuff. 

Newton also created off-script several times when the rush finally got home along with great mechanics in the pocket. On the play above, the right side of the Pats offensive line has a brain fart, as both Shaq Mason and Jermaine Eluemeunor let Jamal Adams through unblocked. Cam eludes Adams to escape the sack, keeps his eyes upfield, draws the linebacker, and hits Edelman for a first down. 

With Newton attempting deeper throws this week, his average time to throw dramatically increased from 2.13 seconds in Week 1 to 2.78 seconds versus the Seahawks this week. 

As long as he stays efficient throwing down the field, Newton’s time in the pocket is mostly irrelevant. If he keeps throwing with clean mechanics, he’ll stay accurate while protecting his right shoulder since he’s generating velocity from his entire body rather than just his arm. 

Although it was in defeat, Newton was playing like an MVP quarterback on Sunday night. 

PASS PROTECTION

For the second week in a row, Newton was barely pressured by the opposition as the Pats offensive line held Seattle to just nine total pressures on 47 Newton drop-backs (19.1 percent). 

Leading the way was left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who had a clean sheet blocking Bruce Irvin for most of the game, and the lack of pass rush gave Newton plenty of time to throw or scramble. 

The Seahawks rush three and drop eight into coverage on this third-down play, trying to tighten up the passing windows downfield. Seattle runs a stunt with their three-man rush, and it’s picked up beautifully by left guard Joe Thuney and center David Andrews. The stunt pass-off allows Newton to wait for a receiver to uncover downfield, and when he looks to scramble, his movement pulls the underneath zone defender up enough for him to hit Byrd for a first down. 

Although the Pats OL would like the final play back, and the entire game mostly from a run-game perspective, they were solid throughout in pass protection on a heavy passing day.

SLOT PERFORMANCE 

Some unsolicited advice to the rest of the NFL: stop playing zone coverage against Julian Edelman. 

Seattle is a zone-heavy defense, and Edelman is a zone buster, as his savviness to attack zone coverage rules and find soft spots makes him a nightmare to defend every week. 

Here, the Seahawks are in cover-three with the outside corners matching vertical routes on the perimeter. Edelman and the Pats know this, and send Edelman on an over route across the field to stress Jamal Adams, who is in a hook/over zone keying crossing routes from Edelman’s alignment. Even with Adams waiting for him, Edelman gets open by gaining depth in his route, knowing that Adams has no help over the top from the deep-third player. 

On his 49-yard reception, Edelman once again got matched up on Adams in zone coverage. This time, Seattle is in a quarters structure, and Edelman catches Adams flat-footed on a straight go. 

The only way to slow down Edelman is to double him out of the game with bracket coverage or man-to-man with help inside. If you give him one-on-one opportunities, he’ll shred you. 

The Pats wideout was an unstoppable force in the slot averaging 5.42 yards per route run and now ranks third in the entire NFL in receiving yards through the first two weeks of the season. 

Along with Edelman, the Pats finally used 2019 first-round pick, N’Keal Harry, as a “big” slot. Harry ran nearly 40 percent of his routes from the slot and used his size against defenders on the inside to win at the catch point down the field. 

We’ve been clamoring for the Pats to use Harry in the slot since he had success there at Arizona State. His size is a mismatch inside, and it hides his separation issues. 

The Patriots wide receivers performed well when given a chance to compete on Sunday night, despite many begging Belichick to add another playmaker to the fold. 

PASS RUSH STATS + RUN STOPS

The Patriots pass rush had one of those games where they were getting to the quarterback but could not corral Wilson enough to force him into sacks or poor throws. 

In all, New England pressured Wilson on over 40 percent of his drop-backs, which is a good number, but there were too many “close but no cigar” moments against an exceptional talent. 

Patriots edge defender Chase Winovich was often the closest one to Wilson, and he led the team with six quarterback pressures, but Wilson was too good throwing under pressure. 

On his touchdown pass to Chris Carson, Winovich beats the left tackle clean and is quickly in Wilson’s face. But the Seahawks QB drops it in the bucket for a touchdown anyways. 

Similarly, Winovich beats the left tackle again to force Wilson to throw off his back foot, and once again, he dropped a bomb on Stephon Gilmore for a long TD to D.K. Metcalf. 

In all, four of Wilson’s five passing touchdowns came while he was under pressure. As much as you want to blame the pass rush, there’s nothing you can about most of those throws. 

On the other hand, New England’s run defense was atrocious as they routinely lost the edge and were soft up the middle as well. 

The Patriots’ system is built on their defensive line two-gapping to occupy blockers while the players at the second level make plays. The Pats defensive line let the Seahawks blockers reach the second level, and without much resistance from the linebackers, it was too easy. 

New England needs linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, who played every snap on defense but didn’t record a run stop, to be that forceful run defender at the second level of the defense. 

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would also be the first to tell you that any defense has zero chance at stopping the run without setting the edge, which was also a disaster. 

COVERAGE STATS

In his Monday media availability, Belichick chalked up three of Wilson’s touchdown passes to great execution by the offense rather than anything to do with the coverage. 

However, there were several instances where the execution by the defense needs to be better, especially covering crossing patterns and limiting yards after the catch on underneath throws. 

On the crossing routes, it’s important to realize that the shallow crossers are successful against the Patriots defense because they stress New England’s man coverage rules and techniques. 

In other words, the Pats are conceding many of those short throws to cover up the big plays, but they need to do a better job of making adjustments to limit the yards after the catch.

Here, the Seahawks put wide receiver David Moore in the backfield, confusing New England’s assignments. They then ran a mesh concept with Lockett crossing over the middle. Even if JC Jackson gets the assignment right, he’s probably going to get picked off coming across. There needs to be better communication, and the Pats need to consider passing some of these routes off rather than running their man-coverage defenders through traffic. 

Some of the crossers were also good designs by the Seahawks. With the Patriots dropping into zone coverage, Seattle releases a tight end vertically upfield, forcing Kyle Dugger to match him. Once Dugger’s matches the tight end, there’s no resistance underneath as Lockett makes his way across. With nobody slowing him down, it leaves Ja’Whaun Bentley isolated on Lockett in space, and we all know how that’s going to end for the Pats. 

Defensively, no coverage is perfect. Every coverage has its weaknesses, and it’s always advantage offense, so again, it’s picking your poison. 

Still, the Patriots need to develop creative checks, such as taking out the crossers by dropping players off the line of scrimmage in coverage or punishing crossers over the middle.

Ultimately, you hope that giving up the underneath crossers means the defense is limiting big plays, but that isn’t always the case when you go up against a quarterback like Wilson.