Below are a variety of advanced stats from New England’s 33-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
TOM BRADY’S PASSING CHART
As my colleague Mike Petraglia said to Brady on Sunday night, chicks dig the long ball.
After months of talk about noodle arms and declining arm strength, the Pats QB completed all three of his passes of 20 or more yards for 127 yards, two touchdowns, and a perfect 158.3 rating. Two of those three throws traveled more than 40 yards in the air.
According to Pro Football Focus, Brady’s grade on his deep throws was a near-perfect 99.0 out of 100 on Sunday night.
Brady’s deep bomb to Josh Gordon in the third quarter traveled 42 yards in the air. On the throw, Gordon turned Steelers safety Kameron Kelly around up the seam, and Brady dropped a beautiful throw in between the two Pittsburgh safeties with the throw beating Terrell Edmunds to Gordon. The Pats receiver hung on despite the big hit from Edmunds.
In the time to throw department, despite the deep strikes, Brady released the ball in a quick 2.37 seconds on average. Last season, Brady’s time to throw average was 2.45 seconds.
With Antonio Brown joining the Patriots offense, Brady has the weapons to put up MVP numbers, and physically, he looked fantastic in the season opener.
OFFENSIVE LINE STATS
Although the Patriots threw for 373 yards as a team, Brady did so while under pressure on 43.2 percent of his drop-backs on Sunday night.
Pats offensive line coach Dante Scarnnechia is not going to like that statistic very much.
The Pittsburgh defense features one of the best defensive lines in the NFL with T.J. Watt (seven pressures), Javon Hargrave (four), Bud Depree (three), Stephon Tuitt (two) and Cam Heyward (two). Things could’ve been much worse if Brady and his receivers weren’t on fire.
After a stellar season a year ago, starting right guard Shaq Mason had a difficult time protecting Tom Brady against the Steelers. Mason allowed a team-high seven disruptions, all hurries.
In particular, Mason struggled with his footwork, which led to issues against the powerful Hargrave. On the play above, you can see Mason cross his feet in his pass set, a cardinal sin for an offensive lineman, and that’s what leads to the pancake for Hargrave. That might be the first time I’ve ever seen Mason get blown up like that at the point of attack.
On a positive note, Patriots left tackle Isaiah Wynn was nearly flawless, allowing one quarterback hit on 40 pass-blocking snaps.
My film review this week will focus heavily on the 2018 first-round pick.
In the slot, Brady completed passes to seven different receivers with 68 percent of his passing yards coming on throws to slot receivers (232).
All four of Phillip Dorsett’s catches came with the speedy wideout running out of the slot, and Julian Edelman was once again a difficult cover inside the formation.
Brady and Edelman connected on New England’s core crossing concept off of play-action with Brady averaging over 11 yards per attempt on play-action attempts.
Here, the Patriots are in 21 personnel, a run formation, which gets the linebackers at the second level to bite on the run fake. Edelman is lined up in a reduced split condensed to the formation with the Steelers in man coverage. Edelman gets up on the toes of the defender and cut across holding his angle through his break.
Dorsett and Gordon got a lot of the hype after Sunday night’s game, and rightfully so, but Edelman is still the straw that stirs the drink.
QUARTERBACK PRESSURES & RUN STOPS
Defensively, the Patriots only pressured Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on 22.4 percent of his drop-backs, but they didn’t really come after the future Hall of Famer.
Deatrich Wise led the way with four quarterback pressures, including a strip-sack on Roethlisberger, and a hurry on third down above with a strong long-arm move to push the left tackle back into the Pittsburgh QB.
The Patriots only blitzed Roethlisberger 11 times or 22 percent of his attempts, but they were effective when doing so holding Big Ben to 3.9 yards per attempt and a 56.3 rating.
On Jamie Collins’s quarterback hit, the Patriots ran a simulated pressure to harass Roethlisberger. The Pats drop both edge defenders on the line of scrimmage, Shilique Calhoun and John Simon, into coverage, and blitz their two inside linebackers. With only five in the protection, Collins reads that Dont’a Hightower and Michael Bennett are occupying the right guard and tackle, so he loops around for a free path to the quarterback.
Although the pass rush wasn’t particularly disruptive, the Patriots played terrific run defense holding the Steelers to 2.2 yards per rush in the first half, before the game got out of hand.
The New England defense was well prepared for Pittsburgh’s zone rollback concept leaving players on the backside to contain the cutback lanes.
They also got some terrific run defense out of Hightower, who pancakes Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva to make one of his two stops on the play above.
The Patriots were disciplined and physical at the point of attack against a terrific offensive line.
In the secondary, the Patriots won their matchups across the board breaking up eight passes allowing only four completions of over ten air yards on 47 attempts.
Pats corner Jason McCourty led the way with three pass breakups and Stephon Gilmore’s coverage on JuJu Smith-Schuster was excellent, but Jon Jones and Patrick Chung caught my eye.
Jones had two pass breakups with the second one coming after it looked like Steelers rookie Diontae Johnson had a reception. Jones played through the whistle and punched the ball out of Johnson’s hands to prevent a completion.
Fresh off a contract extension, Jones also made one of the key plays early on in the game, breaking up a long pass intended for Johnny Holton.
As for Chung, he made two great plays that stood out on review, with a tip of the cap to Dont’a Hightower on one of them.
Chung said that the Pats linebacker told him that a stick route was coming from Donte Moncrief before the snap. Chung breaks on the stick and prevents another completion.
The other play was a completed pass, but Chung made an excellent tackle. Steelers receiver Ryan Switzer runs a whip route out of a stacked alignment, a challenging route to defend because there’s no jam at the line of scrimmage. Despite that, Chung still gets Switzer on the ground short of the sticks on second and short.
Most of Pittsburgh’s big passing plays came in garbage time and against competitive coverage with the Pats secondary going without any big busts or letdowns in the backend.