Chris Hogan came into this past weekend having never played in a championship game in the NFL playoffs. But after having a four reception, 95-yard game against the Texans in the divisional round, it seemed hard to top that performance. But Hogan did exactly that with a nine reception, 180 yard and two touchdown game on the biggest stage of his football career. It never hurts however, having one of the best quarterbacks of all time in Tom Brady throwing to him. So how much exactly of Hogan’s great performance came from the terrific play from Brady as opposed to his own doing? I took a look at Hogan’s big plays from this past weekend and looked at just how they came to fruition.
I will note that prior to starting, I am excluding some of his receptions (his four yard receptions in the first [5:41] and second quarter [9:31]) and a fourth quarter target where Brady looked to be throwing it away more than targeting Hogan. With that, let’s get started.
The first play on the agenda is his 26-yard reception in the first quarter (4:55). Hogan is lined up in the slot in I-formation before Brady calls an audible and has Martellus Bennett and James Develin line up as receivers. Hogan remains in the slot and faces zone coverage against linebacker James Harrison. As the ball is snapped, Hogan runs an up route as he isn’t picked up by anyone in the second level of the defense. Brady connects with him while being wide open for a nice gain of 26 yards. For record’s sake, I’ll give this to Brady for finding Hogan down-field against weak zone coverage that saw a linebacker lined up on him.
On the very next play, Hogan would make another reception for a first down (4:23). He is lined up against rookie cornerback Sean Davis in zone defense. Hogan starts running what looks to be an up route which he is then able to sell perfectly before turning inside for what really was a hook route. The route sell allowed for Hogan to get separation from Davis and be open in the middle of the field for an 11-yard gain. For this, I’ll give the credit to Hogan due to a nice route run and ability to get separation.
Less than two minutes later in the drive, Hogan finds himself on the receiving end of his first career post-season touchdown reception (2:55). He finds himself lined up on the outside against cornerback Ross Cockrell in man-to-man defense. Hogan works in sync with Danny Amendola, who runs an underneath route that freezes Cockrell as Hogan runs an up route right into the end-zone while being wide-open for 16 yards. Cockrell gives up his assignment and Hogan is able to stand in the end-zone completely uncovered for a pass from Brady for the touchdown. I’ll give credit to both Amendola for drawing the double coverage and Brady for finding Hogan in the end-zone while being wide open.
We move forward to the second quarter for what will be one of the very few mistakes from Brady in that game (10:16). Hogan is lined up in the slot for this particular play against zone defense. Both William Gay looking like the primary defender but Lawrence Timmons also seems to be shading a bit towards Hogan pre-snap. Hogan, like before, sells an in route going straight down the field before cutting inside for an in route that the Steelers don’t account for. Hogan created the necessary separation over the middle of the field to catch the pass and have ample running room after but Brady unfortunately threw behind him. Had this pass connected, Hogan deserves the credit here. He was able to shake his defender on a solid route on what could’ve been a big gain.
Later on in that drive, Hogan finds himself lined up on the outside against zone defense (8:25). He ran a curl-in route where the Steelers didn’t seem to bother to pick him up on the second level. But Hogan deserves credit for his nice catch while on-the-run and be able to get outside for a solid amount of yards after the catch. Brady also deserves credit here though for great ball placement that allows Hogan to keep in stride for a nice 22 yard gain.
Coming up on a beauty of a play from the Patriots, the second quarter flea flicker (7:54). Everyone on the offense (especially Josh McDaniels for the play-call) deserves credit for this. Dion Lewis takes the hand-off all of the way to the offensive line before tossing it back to Brady. Hogan, meanwhile, does a nice job of selling it as a run play before sprinting past his defender and getting enough acceleration to beat the second level defender on a crossing route. Operating out of the slot, Hogan ends up catching a perfectly-placed pass from Brady that lets Hogan jog into the end-zone for a 34 yard touchdown catch.
Moving on to the third quarter (11:16), Hogan finds himself lined up at the slot receiver position against man-to-man defense. He finds himself covered by Artie Burns with Burns over his outside shoulder. Hogan had some nifty route running on this play. He firsts running an in route before cutting inside and turning into a curl route. Burns bit on the curl as he looked to be expecting a post route. Hogan took advantage of Burns being lined up on his outside shoulder to have separation and no one in front of him when he cut inside. Brady would find Hogan for a 24-yard gain on the play with a lot of credit deservedly going to Hogan on this.
Later on in the third quarter (4:01), Hogan would make another big play. He would line up against Gay in man-to-man defense with him also lined up on Hogan’s outside shoulder. Hogan starts off running a slant route towards the inside before cutting into an in route. He would have Gay still covering him from the outside before once again cutting in his route, back over the middle to a well-placed Brady pass. Hogan had good separation to get outside after the catch and getting good yards after the catch, including good awareness in breaking a tackle from the backside before being brought down. Hogan took advantage of his situation and worked to create separation over the middle for the catch and run, deserving credit here. As a 39-yard reception, it was his biggest play of the game.
The last play to cover in this game is the one rare mistake Hogan made in this game. In the fourth quarter (7:26), he found himself lined up on the outside in the red-zone facing man-to-man defense. Hogan originally runs a slant route into the end-zone before cutting back outside for a corner route. On that, he not only is able to get a step advantage on his defender, but he gets by the safety in the end-zone as well when he starts his corner route. In the back-corner of the end-zone, Brady finds Hogan for what would’ve been his third touchdown of the game but it goes through Hogan’s hands as he looks to have dropped it. The pass may have been a little out of Hogan’s reach but it is certainly one he could’ve caught.
All in all, Hogan was able to line up all over the field in the game, whether it was on the right or left side, in the slot or on the outside and be able to have a terrific game. He took advantage of a young Steelers secondary that also had some difficulties in their zone defense, especially covering the middle of the field and picking up players at the second level. Hogan’s solid route-running ability along with his feet work was a big factor as well. Great timing and ball placement by Brady certainly helped (along with a creative flea flicker play design), but make no mistake about it: Hogan definitely deserves credit (maybe more than has been given to him thus far) for his career day.