The Patriots came away with a remarkable road victory over the Bills in a windstorm in Buffalo on Monday night.
In their 14-10 win, New England’s running backs gained 144 rushing yards after contact, with rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson leading the way by forcing nine missed tackles.
Defensively, the Pats stifled Bill quarterback Josh Allen by nearly a 50-50 split of mixing zone and man coverage along with nine well-timed blitzes where Allen was 2-of-8 for 30 yards. New England’s run defense also held Buffalo’s offense to a 14% rushing success rate in the win.
Here are a various advanced stats as the Patriots improved to 9-4 on the season:
MAC JONES’ PASSING METRICS
Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones threw only three passes in Monday night’s victory, the fewest pass attempts in an NFL game since 1974.
Someday Jones’ passing chart from the game will hang in the Patriots Hall of Fame, showing off three scintillating dots, including one screen pass that flummoxed the Buffalo defense.
All jokes aside, the Pats will likely never win another game where Jones only throws three passes. According to ESPN’s QBR metric, which measures win probability on a scale out of 100 using expected points added (EPA), Jones earned a QBR of 4.3 on Monday night.
In other words, the Patriots win roughly four percent of games where Jones only has three pass attempts.
New England head coach Bill Belichick played the elements, relying on the defense and run game to upset the Bills in Buffalo, but it was ultimately a daring strategy.
PATS RUSHING ATTACK STATS
Since there are only three pass attempts to grade in pass protection, we’ll devote this section to sharing some run-game metrics this week.
Starting with the run blocking, the Patriots gained 78 yards before contact and played six offensive linemen on over 60% of their offensive plays.
The majority of their runs were gap or man blocking plays (34 out of 40 runs, excluding kneel-downs and sneaks). The Pats used crack toss, trap, G lead, and power concepts to steamroll the Buffalo defense.
According to Pro Football Focus, right tackle Trent Brown led the way with an elite 92.1 run-blocking grade while David Andrews (78.7), Jakobi Meyers (77.9), Isaiah Wynn (76.8), and fullback Jakob Johnson (69.5) all graded out with above-average grades in the game.
Harris made a terrific cut back to daylight on the play, but the Pats running back went untouched on his 64-yard house call in the first quarter.
The Patriots got great blocks from wide receiver N’Keal Harry (crack), Isaiah Wynn (pull/kick out), Ted Karras (climb to LB), and fullback Jakob Johnson (lead) on a lead crack toss that Buffalo’s defense then over pursued to the sideline opening the cutback lane for Harris.
New England’s three-headed monster at running back also combined for 144 rushing yards after contact and 13 forced missed tackles, with Harris and Stevenson rushing for 86 yards over expected. Stevenson, in particular, was responsible for nine forced missed tackles.
The results for the Pats on the ground speak for themselves: 41 non-QB runs, 225 rushing yards (5.5 avg.), and eight runs over 10-plus yards when the whole world knew it was coming.
DEFENSIVE PRESSURES & RUN STOPS
Although the running game deserves its kudos, the Patriots won Monday night’s game with their defense.
By mixing in different looks and a coordinated pass rush, the Pats held Bills quarterback Josh Allen to -0.09 expected points added and 4.8 yards per attempt on 37 drop-backs.
The Pats pressured Allen on over 32% of his passing plays in the pass rush, with a coordinated rush holding him in check.
Allen is most dangerous on extended plays from outside the pocket, and the Pats pressured him without allowing him to burn them on broken plays. In all, Allen was 0-of-7 on pass attempts while under pressure.
One of the keys to the plan was forcing Allen to step up in the pocket rather than escaping to his left or right where he could throw on the move.
Here, Pats EDGEs Kyle Van Noy and Matthew Judon keep Allen in the pocket when he looks to escape. Allen is forced to step up with the pocket collapsing, and practice squad elevation Daniel Ekuale gets the sack.
New England plays man coverage with KVN as a spy on Allen in this play. Once Allen breaks the pocket, Van Noy closes in a hurry to force a throw, and Adrian Phillips breaks it up downfield.
The Patriots let Allen scramble five times for 36 yards, but they’ll take those runs over explosive passes with Allen on the move.
New England executed their rush plan nearly flawlessly, which was critical to their success.
Another significant element to the Pats’ success defensively was a stout run defense, which forced Buffalo to throw in the elements.
Leading the way against the run was defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (five stops). Godchaux thrived on outside zone plays where the strong-side DE and EDGE were holding their ground, allowing the Pats’ nose tackle to work down the line to make plays.
New England held Buffalo to a 14% success rate on the ground, making Allen beat them with downfield passes in a windstorm.
Speaking of those downfield passes, Allen averaged over 11 air yards per attempt despite the weather conditions on Monday night.
Although it was playing with fire a bit, the Pats played man coverage on 14 of Allen’s 30 attempts to bait the Bills’ QB into deeper throws against the wind, and it worked.
The matchups were J.C. Jackson on Stefon Diggs, Adrian Phillips against Dawson Knox, Myles Bryant vs. Cole Beasley, and Jalen Mills had Emmanuel Sanders or Gabriel Davis. Given the amount of man coverage, it was an impressive showing across the board.
Mainly, Jackson made himself some money by allowing one catch on three man coverage targets against Diggs with a pass breakup.
On the PBU, Jackson makes a fantastic anticipatory play at the sticks to play the down and distance while nearly intercepting the pass for a pick-six.
The Patriots’ defense also ran man coverage on their critical fourth-down stop, a zero blitz. The Pats bring the house, getting Devin McCourty free to hurry Allen. Myles Bryant is in man coverage/outside leverage on Beasley but plays with his hips open to read the quarterback. Bryant knew the ball was coming out quickly, read Allen’s eyes, and batted the ball down to ice the game.
New England still leaned on early-down zone schemes, but their 47% man coverage rate was the highest in a game for the Pats since Week 6.
There’s a strong possibility that the weather factored into the play-calling, but it still goes to show that Belichick will play man coverage if necessary.