Advanced Stats Report: Stephon Gilmore Leads Patriots Defense to Victory

The Pats cornerback led the way, holding Dak Prescott to a season-low 212 passing yards on Sunday.

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Below are a variety of advanced stats from the Patriots 13-9 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

TOM BRADY’S PASSING CHART

Brady’s box score stats suggest that he had an off-game against the Cowboys defense, but a deeper dive into the film paints a better picture for the Pats quarterback.

Accounting for six drops and three throw-aways, Brady’s adjusted completion percentage in the win was 69.7, which is much better than his standard completion rate of 45.9.

Along with improved ball placement, Brady also received a Pro Football Focus grade of 70.1 on throws from a clean pocket, a significant improvement from his 46.4 grade a week ago.

The six-time Super Bowl champ made his best throw of the day on a third and 20 conversion in the third quarter. The Cowboys drop into a cover-2 zone to theoretically protect the sticks. Brady eludes the rusher to his left, resets, and fires a dart to Julian Edelman for the first down on a deep dig route.

Brady also made a perfect back-shoulder throw to rookie N’Keal Harry for the lone touchdown of the game for either team.

In the time to throw department, Brady’s release has slowed considerably over the last three games. Since Week 9, Brady’s average time to throw is 2.71 seconds. In the first eight games of the season, Brady’s average was 2.40. There’s a lot that goes into those numbers, but the biggest factor seems to be the lack of separation by Brady’s receivers, forcing him to hold the ball.

Despite the conditions, Brady bounced back after a rough performance in Philadelphia last week.

OFFENSIVE LINE STATS

The return of starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn led to the offensive line’s best performance in weeks.

Brady was only pressured on 28.2 percent of his drop-backs, despite a slower trigger finger, which is New England’s lowest pressure rate since Week 6 against the New York Giants.

With Wynn, it was an ugly first half against Cowboys pass rusher, Robert Quinn, as the Pats left tackle struggled with Quinn’s first-step and had to work on timing the rush.

However, as the game wore on, Wynn got more comfortable with Quinn and the rest of the Dallas defensive front.

Here, Wynn’s excellent footwork and technique in his pass set are on full display. First, watch Wynn’s outside foot. He extends and gets an explosive first step out his stance to establish inside leverage and square-up the rusher. Then, the Pats left tackle effortlessly shuffles his feet laterally to send Cowboys defensive end Dorance Armstrong around the arc past Brady.

Along with his contributions in pass protection, Wynn also helped pave the way for a productive day on the ground. Pats running back Sony Michel ran eight times for 39 yards behind Wynn.

On the de facto game-clincher, the Pats ran their “boss” play behind Wynn for a first down. The “boss” call is an outside zone scheme with the fullback kicking out the edge defender. Wynn combines with tight end Ben Watson to block the end and then shows terrific awareness to get a piece of linebacker Sean Lee to save the play. If Wynn doesn’t adjust course and make that block, Lee blows up the run in the backfield.

Wynn allowed a team-high five pressures in a rough first half, and Shaq Mason was the lowest-graded Patriots player on offense, but the OL as a whole showed signs of improvement.

SLOT PERFORMANCE

In the slot, the Patriots struggled with drops as they did throughout the game with Julian Edelman (two drops) and Jakobi Meyers (one) letting the ball hit the ground.

Although the drops hurt, Edelman and Meyers still caught five passes for 63 yards between the numbers, including a few critical third-down conversions.

Here, Brady connects with Meyers on a third and seven. Meyers does a nice job of squaring up Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in his stem and gets into Awuzie’s body at the top of the route. Once he gets positioning on Awuzie, Meyers shows strong hands to box out at the catch point and battle through contact to convert on third down.

Along with Edelman and Meyers, the Pats continue to experiment with first-round pick N’Keal Harry in the slot. Harry ran three routes out of the slot and was targeted once. With his skill set, Harry figures to be a threat from inside the formation as a big slot type. Hopefully, he continues to work from inside the formation.

DEFENSIVE PRESSURES & RUN STOPS

The Patriots’ pass rush pressured Dak Prescott on 38.2 percent of his drop-backs, which was their lowest pressure rate since their Week 1 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

However, against the mobile Prescott, the Pats focused on containing Dak in the pocket rather than hunting for sacks. They also only blitzed Prescott ten times on 34 drop-backs.

On this third-down stop, the Patriots show blitz and then have Devin McCourty retreat to centerfield. With McCourty dropping, it’s only a three-man rush out of a three-safety package, and the other two safeties position themselves in zones at the sticks. As the pocket opens, the Pats control where Prescott is going to scramble. He takes the bait, and linebacker Jamie Collins peels off his man and closes on Prescott well short of the sticks along with safety Terrence Brooks.

When the Patriots did bring pressure, they found some success with their five-man blitzes out of their amoeba fronts. The Pats run stunts on either side of the line with Adam Butler rushing straight up the middle. Collins slithers through left tackle Tyron Smith and running back Ezekiel Elliott, and Dak throws the ball into the dirt.

The Patriots didn’t overwhelm Prescott with pressure, but they executed the plan of forcing the Cowboys quarterback to beat them by scanning the full field from the pocket.

In run defense, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott broke off only two runs of ten-plus yards and averaged a modest 4.1 yards per rush.

The middle of the Pats defense has rediscovered its stoutness at the point of attack over the last two weeks, led by defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, who tied for a team-high three run stops.

Here, the Cowboys pull both guards on a counter play, which leaves Guy one-on-one with right tackle La’el Collins on a down block. Guy stands up Collins, pressing him with his upper body to create separation, and tosses Collins to the side to make the stop.

The Pats front seven held its own against a very talented Cowboys offensive line.

COVERAGE STATS

On the backend, the Patriots held Dak Prescott to a season-low 212 passing yards and 6.4 yards per attempt with a good mix of zone and man coverages.

Leading the way was All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who pitched a shutout against Cowboys Pro Bowler Amari Cooper in coverage.

Pats head coach Bill Belichick called Gilmore’s second-quarter interception, “one of the best plays we’ve had all year.”

The Cowboys aligned in a bunch set in tight to the formation, and Cooper is the outside receiver. As the outside receiver, the Cowboys wideout comes across the field with Gilmore tracking him in man coverage. Gilmore baits Prescott, staying half a step behind Cooper as they cross the field, and then perfectly undercuts the route.

Gilmore’s interception was a terrific individual play, but the Pats’ team defense in the secondary continues to be a strength of the unit.

The Cowboys have a critical third-down play in the red zone late in the fourth quarter. The Patriots are in man coverage with Jamie Collins assigned to Ezekiel Elliott in the flat. Instead of running Collins across the formation to track Elliott, he switches jobs with Kyle Van Noy, who is on the edge. Van Noy covers Elliott, taking away Prescott’s first read, and Collins joins the rush. The smart switch by the Pats linebackers force Dak to look elsewhere, and he throws incomplete out of the back of the end zone to his tight end.

The Patriots are combining terrific individual efforts like Gilmore’s interception with exceptional team defense in coverage, which makes their pass defense the best in the NFL.