The New England Patriots spent an awful lot of time on defense in the 27-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. While the offense called 58 plays, the defense saw a whopping 89. Here's our key takeaways:
Do we have an offensive line?
Shaq Mason (58, 100%) played right guard and I'm led to wonder if this was the solution all along. Mason was great at his college position, while Josh Kline (58, 100%) was settled at left guard. The two tackles Sebastian Vollmer (58, 100%) and Marcus Cannon (58, 100%) excelled as well. There was a period of time where center Bryan Stork (42, 72%) had to go get extra tape on his ankle, but back-up rookie David Andrews (17, 29%) played admirably.
No time for a second tight end
Scott Chandler (5, 9%) and Michael Williams (7, 12%) rarely saw the field and it was very intentional. Four of their snaps came on kneel downs (one before half, three to close the game). The Patriots wanted to put three receivers on the field at all times in order to enhance the quick passing game. Rob Gronkowski (53, 91%) missed just one snap outside of the kneeldowns, while Brandon LaFell (52, 90%), Julian Edelman (51, 88%), and Danny Amendola (44, 76%) were active for most of the game. Keshawn Martin (10, 17%) filled in for the remainder.
James White led the running backs
White (42, 72%) led the charge for the running backs while Steven Jackson (17, 29%) played very little (and four of his snaps were on the kneel downs). Brandon Bolden picked up 4 snaps of his own in 2 RB sets, and the one non-kneeldown for Gronkowski on the sideline was the opening play of the second drive, where Bolden was on in a 2 RB formation.
Chandler Jones took a seat for a lot of the game
Maybe it was punishment, maybe he wasn't 100%, but Jones only saw 36 snaps (40%) on the day. Rob Ninkovich (83, 93%) put in a herculean effort and seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, with nary a mental breakdown. Jabaal Sheard (64, 72%) played well for most of the game, while Dakoda Watson (13, 15%) filled in when Jones went down with an injury.
The defensive tackle rotation is alive and well
Malcom Brown (54, 61%) continues to improve on the interior, paced the positional group in snaps. Akiem Hicks (42, 47%) and Alan Branch (38, 43%) had great days, while Sealver Siliga (14, 16%) continues to work his way back onto the field.
The linebackers are broken
Dont'a Hightower (76, 85%) led the linebackers in snaps. Anything less than 100% isn't a good sign, unless it's during a blowout. Jamie Collins (43, 48%) ranked second, while Jonathan Freeny (35, 39%), Darius Fleming (10, 11%), and Jerod Mayo (7, 8%) saw the field as well. Hopefully none of the injuries are too serious because we saw the impact of losing Hightower against the Broncos earlier in the season.
The secondary is made of ironmen
Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler, and Logan Ryan all played 89 snaps (100%) for the defense. Justin Coleman (67, 75%) took over as the nickel corner and was back in form after some early rust. Duron Harmon (38, 43%) saw plenty of action as well as the Patriots played an interesting amount of dime defense, and rookie Jordan Richard (3, 3%) cleaned up on a few snaps.
The following players saw 15+ special teams snaps:
Nate Ebner (22), Dakoda Watson (21), Brandon Bolden (17), Matthew Slater (16), Patrick Chung (16), Darius Fleming (16), Brandon King (16), Jordan Richards (15)