Passing Chart - Tom Brady
(credit NFL Next Gen Stats: https://nextgenstats.nfl.com/)
Tom Brady ended up with another 300-yard game in Week 8, but the Chargers forced Brady and the Pats to dink and dunk their way down the field.
In many ways, Brady’s passing chart from this one resembles his distribution when going up against the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense over the last few years.
This isn’t surprising given the style of defense the Chargers play as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has emulated his old team’s scheme in Los Angeles.
The Chargers played mainly cover-1 and cover-3 in the backend, and got after Tom Brady, which forced the underneath throws that dominated the day.
Most notably, Brady attacked the weak-side of the Chargers’ defense in the flat on passes to the running backs, which is what led to James White’s big performance in Super Bowl 49.
The deep pass attempts that we saw Brady attempt at career-high rate earlier in the season have certainly leveled off in recent weeks.
Brady’s time to throw was up a few ticks from last week at 2.74 seconds, but his release began to quicken considerably as the game went on, and as the Chargers’ pass rush started to get home.
The Patriots’ offensive line had an interesting day to say the least.
Statistically, this wasn’t a great performance, as Brady was pressured on 46% of his drop-backs.
However, given the level of competition, the tape tells a bit of a different story, as the Patriots’ offensive line held its own in pass protection against a terrific defensive front.
Nate Solder struggled as you might expect against two of the best edge rushers in the league in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but like the rest of the line he kept most of the pressures to just hurries and not actual hits on Brady.
Brady deserves credit for getting rid of the ball right before a defender contacted him, but the Patriots did a nice job of game-planning for the speedy edge rushers along the Chargers’ defensive front.
LaAdrian Waddle did allow five total pressures in just 51 snaps after replacing Marcus Cannon in the second quarter, but much like Solder he still gave Brady a chance to get rid of the football.
This was a tough matchup for the Patriots’ o-line, and even though the stats aren’t pretty, they deserve credit for avoiding a complete disaster.
The Patriots’ slot position didn’t yield its typical production against the Chargers, which had a lot to do with Los Angeles stacking the middle of the field.
Danny Amendola’s snaps on offense continue to be managed, but when he gets into the game he’s used almost exclusively in the slot, essentially trying to make the most out of his snaps as a wide receiver.
Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski also saw less time in the slot than in recent weeks, which you have to think was apart of the game plan.
Pass Rush/Run Stops
Once again the Patriots’ pass rush struggled against a bad Chargers offensive line.
The Pats pressured Phillip Rivers on just 25.8% of his drop backs, the lowest rate any team has pressured Rivers this season.
Now it’s fair to say that some of this is strategy by the Patriots.
Whether we like it or not, and I hate it for the record, the Patriots continue to use vanilla pass rush schemes up front, and only blitz in certain situations.
The three and four-man rushes explains the lack of a pass rush, especially when you consider the lack of overall talent up front for the Patriots.
They’re going to continue to play seven or eight man coverages in the secondary, and play conservatively up front.
It is what it is at this point.
As for the run defense, things settled down after Melvin Gordon’s long touchdown run in the first quarter.
However, Trey Flowers’ lack of production in the run game is notable.
Flowers is typically one of the Patriots’ best run defenders, but didn’t make a stop in this game, and had trouble setting the edge a few times as well.
We can chalk it up to one subpar for Flower for now, but it’s worth monitoring going forward.
The Patriots’ pass defense held Rivers to just 212 passing yards in Week 8, which was the fewest an opposing quarterback has had against the Pats this season.
The Chargers clearly made it a point to stay away from cornerback Malcolm Butler, and focused heavily on attacking the opposite side of the Patriots’ defense.
That gave us a chance to see what Johnson Bademosi can do when tested, and there were certainly mixed results.
Bademosi played a respectable game given the amount of times he was targeted and did a nice job limiting yards after the catch for Chargers pass catchers.
However, we did see some of the special teamers flaws highlighted by a team finally attacking him.
The biggest flaw we saw was Bademosi’s ball skills, something that has kept him off the field on defense in the past.
This was on full display a few times as Bademosi struggled with tracking the ball in the air, especially on a touchdown pass to Tyrell Williams that was called back because the receiver stepped out of bounds prior to the catch.
Bademosi struggled timing his leap and tracking the ball in the air on that play, and had similar struggles a few other times in this one.
You obviously can’t rag on Bademosi for a few bad plays after he has played so well in Stephon Gilmore’s absence, but the Chargers pointed out his limitations, and maybe changed some Patriots’ fans minds about needing Gilmore in this secondary.
Finally, the long touchdown pass that appeared to be a miscommunication between Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty falls on Butler in the stat sheet, but both deserve blame.
The Patriots were in cover-2, and McCourty was the deep safety on that half of the field, but was sucked into the middle by two Chargers receivers.
Plus, Butler failed to jam the receiver at the line successfully, and didn’t do a great job of carrying him downfield.
The only blip in the radar for the Patriots and Butler in this one.
Overall, it was a great effort from the Patriots’ secondary against a decent group of pass catchers on the other side.
(h/t Pro Football Focus: https://www.profootballfocus.com/products/elite#edge)