Aside from being a pair of hellacious blockers, Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman put a whole bunch of defensive backs on roller skates this season en route to New England's fifth Super Bowl win - and, while we're at it, they put a few DB's on their backs, too. Both Edelman and Hogan showed up big-time in the postseason too, with Hogan Stone-Cold-stunning the Pittsburgh Steelers almost single-handedly, and Edelman hauling in one of the most absurd catches in Super Bowl history to - what else - keep the chains moving. It's what he does. It's his thing.
So, not to overlook what rookie wideout Malcolm Mitchell and Danny F-the-money-I-want-to-win Amendola chipped in, but it's great to see the nerds...er, analysts at Pro Football Focus give Edelman and Hogan some credit for what they do best - the comeback and hitch routes, in Edelman's case, and the go route for Hogan.
PFF crunched the numbers for every route in the traditional NFL route tree to find out who the best at all 10 routes was in 2016, and, I guess the title kind of gives this away, in hindsight - Chris Hogan runs the NFL's best "go" route, and Edelman is the league's best at comebacks and hitches. Here's a helpful route tree from PFF, if you haven't seen one of these since high school:
As you can see, the biggest difference between a comeback route and a hitch route is whether you break outside or inside, and a comeback route is typically a few yards longer - and a go route, well, it's pretty self-explanatory.
Here's how PFF crowned Chris Hogan the master of the "go deep!" route that the Patriots have lacked for god knows how long:
"Hogan was able to dominate when being targeted on the go route. He caught 7 of his 13 targets, giving him a 53.84% catch rate, tied for the highest rate in the league. He led the league in both yards (299) and touchdowns (4) as well as tying for the highest WR rating at 138.6. On four of his incompletions, three were overthrown and one was dropped, showing that Hogan was able to consistently beat the defense deep."
Gee, I wonder why Bill wanted to steal this kid from the Bills so badly. Must be the lacrosse!
Meanwhile, Edelman breaking ankles with his razor-sharp change of direction is nothing new for the Patriots, but man, can the guy do it well:
"Edelman led the league on comeback and hitch routes with a WR rating of 138.8. He caught 11 of his 17 targets for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He was one of only two qualifying players in the league to score more than one touchdown on these routes (Jordy Nelson had 4). Edelman's aDOT was 8.7 yards, and he averaged 7.8 yards after the catch, the most of any receiver. Eight of Edelman's 17 routes resulted in a first down or touchdown, plus he was able to take one hitch 77 yards for a touchdown."
Love 'em or hate 'em, Pro Football Focus consistently cranks out some intriguing analysis on this type of thing, and both of the Patriots receivers they give props to here only highlight what Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels arguably do better than anyone else in the NFL - find out what a guy is good at, line 'em up, and let it rip.
And if that means installing a play or three in a hotel room the night before the Super Bowl and then trusting your guys to execute a play with a razor-thin margin for error flawlessly, well, that's how it goes on the biggest stage sometimes.