The Patriots played an incredible 99 snaps on offense
While the Patriots only ran 93 official plays, there were six penalties that added snaps to the New England offense. LT Nate Solder, LG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason, RT Marcus Cannon, and QB Tom Brady played all 99 offensive snaps. OT Cameron Fleming added 4 snaps of his own as an extra blocker.
New England receivers really stepped up
The Patriots decided to spread out the Falcons defense to try and pick up yards after the catch. WR Chris Hogan (97 snaps, 98%) led the offensive skill players, with WR Julian Edelman (90, 91%) close behind. TE Martellus Bennett (86, 87%) rounded out the Patriots top skill players.
WR Malcolm Mitchell (52, 53%) and WR Danny Amendola (45, 45%) stepped up in the second half, too, as the Patriots leveraged both players into second half stars. TE Matt Lengel (10, 10%) and WR Matthew Slater (1, 1%) barely played.
RB James White could be the MVP
White led the running backs with 71 snaps (72%), while RB LeGarrette Blount (17, 17%) barely played in the second half. RB Dion Lewis (12, 12%) barely played, either. The fact that the Patriots didn’t use FB James Develin (10, 10%) that much shows how the Patriots needed to attack the Falcons speedy defense.
DT Vincent Valentine didn’t really play
The rookie defensive tackle was dealing with a back injury and only suited up for 6 snaps (12%). DT Alan Branch (36, 73%) and DT Malcom Brown (29, 59%) put the defense on their shoulders and forced the Falcons to run outside (albeit to far more success).
EDGE Trey Flowers is the present and future
Flowers (45, 92%) played an incredibly high percentage of the Patriots defensive snaps, partially due to the Falcons desire to throw the ball all game. But it’s clear that Flowers is the cornerstone of the defensive line, as EDGE Rob Ninkovich (27, 55%), EDGE Jabaal Sheard (23, 47%), and EDGE Chris Long (15, 31%) played far more reserved roles.
LB Dont’a Hightower deserves a long term contract
Hightower played all 49 defensive snaps and spent most of his time next to LB Kyle Van Noy (30, 61%). LB Elandon Roberts (14, 29%) and LB Shea McClellin (8, 16%) didn’t play as much. The Patriots need to lock down Hightower with an extension because he’s the heart of the Patriots defensive front seven.
The Patriots secondary was the same we’ve seen before
FS Devin McCourty, SS Patrick Chung, CB Malcolm Butler, and CB Logan Ryan played all 49 defensive snaps. CB Eric Rowe (32, 65%) generally played against the Falcons 11 personnel (3 wide receivers), while FS Duron Harmon (29, 59%) usually played against the Falcons 12 personnel (2 tight ends and/or fullback).
Butler is a restricted free agent. Ryan and Harmon are unrestricted free agents. Part of me wonders if head coach Bill Belichick will want to keep the secondary in tact as the defensive line could go through a few serious changes in 2017.
The following played 15+ snaps on special teams:
Nate Ebner (28), Shea McClellin (24), Brandon Bolden (23), Barkevious Mingo (23), Brandon King (23), Jonathan Jones (22), Matthew Slater (20), Patrick Chung (18), Devin McCourty (18), Geneo Grissom (17)