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Super Bowl LI: Patriots WR Chris Hogan is better at creating separation than any other receiver

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The Patriots receiver broke out against the Steelers, and for a good reason.

New England Patriots WR Chris Hogan finally had his breakout game in the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers as he collected 9 receptions for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns. It shouldn’t be surprising that QB Tom Brady connected with Hogan for such a productive outing.

What is surprising is that that it took so long to happen.

Hogan finished the regular season with 38 receptions and 680 receiving yards, ranking second in the league in yards per catch. In two playoff games, Hogan has collected 13 receptions on 16 targets for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns. He, along with WR Julian Edelman, have created the majority of the Patriots offense in the postseason and it’s due to his ability to generate separation.

Hogan earned the nickname “7/11” during his time with the Miami Dolphins because he was “always open,” according to then-RB Reggie Bush. Hogan lived up to his title against the Steelers as he was open on almost every single target. And not just a little bit open. He was Harry-Potter-invisibility-cloak-Frodo-wearing-the-One-Ring-Steelers-forgot-he-existed open.

Hogan’s ability to get open against the Steelers wasn’t just a one-game event. According to NFL.com’s Matt Harmon, no player generated more separation from a defender on his targets than Hogan, meaning that Hogan was open a lot.

The Patriots needed Hogan to step up after the injury to TE Rob Gronkowski because the All Pro tight end played a major role in forcing opposing defenses to respect the deep ball. Hogan hasn’t just risen to the occasion- he’s been more productive than Gronkowski on a per-target basis according to numberFire.com.

That’s not to say that Hogan is better than Gronkowski- that’s silly talk- but with Edelman soaking up most of the attention, Hogan is making defenses pay. Hogan needs just 6 more yards to tie 2014 Julian Edelman for the most receiving yards in a single Patriots postseason. If the Atlanta Falcons don’t pay attention, Hogan could finish off one of the most productive postseasons in NFL history.