[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vlFj_0SfTs” /]
Below are a variety of advanced stats from the Patriots’ 24-12 win over the Bills in Week 16:
TOM BRADY’S PASSING CHART
Despite the win, it was a disappointing day for Brady and the passing game against a good Buffalo defense.
In all, Brady didn’t complete a single pass of over ten yards in the air and didn’t attempt a throw of 20 or more yards downfield.
Over the last week, we’ve heard reports from various outlets that Brady is dealing with a knee injury that dates back to New England’s loss in Tennessee.
And some of the issues we saw from Brady on Sunday are consistent with what we’ve seen from him when he struggles over the last month or so.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/x35a2/srukxw” /]
On this incompletion to Cordarrelle Patterson, Brady seems to feel the pressure coming off the edge on an “exit” stunt from Kyle Williams. Brady’s front foot points toward the sideline instead of stepping into the throw, and he looks like he’s bracing himself for the hit. The ball lands well short of Patterson on a near-has throw to the sideline, which is an ugly look for an NFL quarterback that should have plenty of arm strength to reach a throw like that one.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/mvsjn/roqmef” /]
My good friend Erik Turner at cover1.net pointed out that Williams landed a massive hit on Brady on one of these stuns during the first matchup in October.
It’s possible that Brady had that play in the back of his head on top of him protecting a potential injury to his knee.
Nevertheless, I had Brady for four clear negative plays, and most of those were a result of poor accuracy or reads, but there weren’t an abundance of plays to be made downfield as his receivers struggled to create separation against the Buffalo secondary.
In the time to throw department, Brady didn’t wait around in the pocket either, another potential storyline moving forward, as he had his quickest time to throw of the season at 2.15 seconds.
Brady’s internal clock and willingness to hang in the pocket to make throws downfield seems to be sped up for whatever reason (injury, age, lack of open receivers, etc.).
Although Brady got rid of the ball quickly, the Patriots’ offensive line had a difficult day as well allowing pressure on 36 percent of Brady’s drop-backs, its second-highest rate of the season (Week 4).
Leading the way in the struggles on the stat sheet was Patriots left tackle Trent Brown who allowed a game-high five quarterback pressures.
Brown had a difficult time blocking Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes, and was ultimately responsible for the lone sack of the game on Brady.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/ib4u6/pgivnb” /]
On the play, the Patriots ran play-action, and the OL had a difficult time protecting Brady on run fakes all day. Hughes goes right around Brown on the left side with some excellent independent hand usage on a long arm which kept his body clean to bend around the edge. Hughes’ pressure forced Brady to turtle in the pocket, and safety Jordan Poyer cleaned it up for the sack.
The Patriots also had a difficult time picking up blitzes as Brady was forced to throw under pressure many times on Buffalo’s 12 blitzes.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/8shs8/warasu” /]
Here, the Bills overload the left side bringing two rushers off the edge. Brown goes inside to pin down the three-technique, which puts James White in a lose-lose with two rushers running at him. White should take the inside rusher (most immediate threat to QB), but there’s going to be a free rusher regardless because Brown doesn’t pick up the other blitzer.
On the pass blocking offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said, “we didn’t pass block very well yesterday, I was disappointed. We missed a [blitz] pickup on one I know there was some confusion on who the MIKE was. We have so many smart guys that have been in the system for so long that we should be better.”
The Patriots’ offensive line deserves credit for its work in the running game (more on that next), but the struggles in pass protection were a significant reason why the passing offense was so mediocre.
When you rush for 273 yards, the running game deserves its own section in this week’s advanced stats report.
The Patriots used multiple blocking schemes (gap, zone) to carve up the Bills defense on the ground, and jet sweeps were also a significant part of the game plan.
But Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia explained to me how the team simplifies things by having different blocking schemes take on similar qualities in terms of technique for the blockers up front.
“It really is a lot of the same stuff [man or zone blocking] even if it looks different,” Scarnecchia said. “When we run the jet sweep we run the outside zone technique away from it, and the double-teams that have application for our power plays also have application for our inside zone runs. The footwork and fits are really the same. I believe that the more you can do the same things over and over again the better you’re going to get. So I think that’s a foundation of ours.”
On the Patriots’ first touchdown drive, New England ran the ball on three-straight plays gaining 43 yards to set up the score.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/6t84b/hnoaul” /]
Here’s a clip of all three followed by a short explanation of what made those plays work.
FIRST PLAY: PATTERSON JET SWEEP – 12 YARDS
As Scar noted, the Patriots’ offensive line uses an outside zone technique away from Patterson’s motion to pin the defensive line in the opposite direction. After that, it’s all Patterson and the receivers blocking downfield. Patterson runs through one arm tackle at the line of scrimmage and then gets a terrific block from Julian Edelman on the slot corner. Patterson finishes the run by cutting back inside once the corner chasing him over-commits to the outside. Patterson’s speed, strength, and vision in the open field make him a menace on fly sweeps.
SECOND PLAY: MICHEL RUN OFF “POWER” SCHEME – 19 YARDS
On the longest run of the drive, the Patriots go to a power lead scheme with an interesting wrinkle by the coaching staff. The Pats motion tight end Dwayne Allen into the backfield to give Michel two lead blockers on the play. That gives the Pats the numbers advantage on the inside to block the point of attack with a double team. Center David Andrews and right guard Shaq Mason combo block the one-technique defensive tackle while Develin takes the backside linebacker and Allen leads through the hole to the second level. The blocking opens a massive hole for Michel who then breaks two tackles before scampering into the secondary for some extra yards.
THIRD PLAY: MICHEL RUN OFF “WHAM” SCHEME – 12 YARDS
Finally, the Patriots capped off the explosive runs with a scheme that many teams refer to as “wham bam,” but the Pats use fullback James Develin on the wham block instead of a tight end like most others teams. The Pats let the one-tech through this time unblocked, but Develin is there to block him allowing Andrews and Mason to climb to the second level. The two interior linemen seal off the linebackers, and Michel has a huge running lane.
The Patriots got a full team effort from the running backs, fullback, offensive line and receivers to accumulate all those yards on the ground.
In the slot, the Patriots got their usual production of wide receiver Julian Edelman.
One of the wrinkles that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels threw at the Bills defense on Sunday was starting Edelman in the backfield to get him a favorable matchup.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/63hwy/wdncox” /]
Edelman starts in the backfield on this one, and then motions before the snap into the slot. By putting him in the backfield, that gets Edelman in the linebacker count in coverage, and when he moves into the slot, he has a matchup against Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. Edelman runs a return route with Alexander playing with inside leverage and gains an easy seven yards.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/m7wdx/rdytze” /]
Edelman’s touchdown also came on a pass from the slot on a slant. The Pats receiver hesitates in his stem to set up the inside release taking that extra half a second to process the defensive backs technique and then explodes at the top of the route on the slant to create separation. Edelman then shows excellent awareness to continue to the end zone after it appears he was tackled.
The Patriots didn’t get much production in the passing game, but Edelman was one receiver that Brady could rely on this week.
PASS RUSH/RUN STOPS
Bills quarterback Josh Allen has killed opposing defenses with his legs in his rookie season, and the Patriots defense deserves credit for sticking to a coordinated pass rush to smother Allen.
The Patriots were able to pressure Allen on over 30 percent of his drop-backs while still preventing him from running wild on scrambles.
Here’s an excellent example of how the Patriots pressured Allen while still containing him in the pocket.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/agssm/gbenmm” /]
On third down, the Patriots are in their playground defense with one down lineman and everybody else in a two-point stance. At the snap, the Patriots send linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower on slant rushes forcing Allen to step up in the pocket, but when he does, the Pats have safety Devin McCourty spying him, and Trey Flowers is holding his ground on the center. Van Noy also does a nice job of circling back to chase down Allen from behind. All of this is by design to make Allen feel like he has an escape route, but the Pats are funneling him to McCourty on purpose. The secondary does its job, and there’s no place for Allen to throw or run.
The Patriots’ run defense as a whole improved on Sunday after a disastrous couple of weeks holding Buffalo’s running backs to 3.2 yards per rush.
The main reason the Pats run defense improved was the play of their interior defensive linemen led by nose tackle Danny Shelton who was active for the first time since Week 10.
In only three snaps against the run, Shelton showed his value by eating up blockers to allow others to make plays while also registering a run stop.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/0ugly/ukspnb” /]
On the run stop, the Bills run outside zone with the left guard trying to reach Shelton who’s lined up over the center. Shelton doesn’t allow himself to get reached and shows good hand usage and foot speed to free himself up to jump into the gap to make the stop on McCoy.
As a unit, the Patriots played with much better power and fundamentals (hand usage) to right the ship against the run.
In the secondary, Allen’s inaccuracies certainly played a role, but the Pats got some great cornerback play most notably from rookie JC Jackson.
Allen didn’t target the rookie directly in coverage because he was consistently in-position, but the undrafted gem did make a heck of a play to jump a corner route on his interception.
[arve url=”https://streamable.com/s/cvfmp/uduxfe” /]
On the interception, Jackson is playing in an underneath zone in a coverage called cover-3 mable. In this scheme, the corner lined up over the “X” receiver, in this case, Stephon Gilmore, plays a man coverage technique while the rest of the coverage adheres to cover-3 principles. Jackson starts by defending the tight end on the flat route but does an excellent job of reading the quarterback’s eyes. When he sees Allen eyeing Thompson on the corner route, he drops into the deep third to jump the route. Jackson’s responsibility on this play is the deep third, but he baits Allen into the throw by making him think that he’s staying down in the flat. Terrific instincts and ball skills from the rookie.
This season, Jackson has allowed a 31.3 passer rating into his coverage, which leads all CBs in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus’ Louie Benjamin.
Along with Jackson, the Patriots also got strong performances from veterans Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore.
McCourty had a tremendous interception, and Allen was just one-for-six on passes thrown at Gilmore, although the Pats Pro Bowler did get lucky on a throw that speedster Robert Foster lost in the sun.
At the end of the day, the Patriots’ pass defense did what it was supposed to do on Sunday making Allen look like a rookie.
For all CLNS Patriots Videos SUBSCRIBE to our CLNS Media YOUTUBE Channel.
For the most in depth and comprehensive player and game analysis check out Patriots All-22 with host and Patriots beat reporter Evan Lazar. Listen and Subscribe HERE