Tom Brady - Passing Chart
This week’s passing chart is from the new and improved #NextGenStats database on NFL.com. Brady’s passing chart proves what we all thought: the Patriots offense got back to its roots against the Saints.
After attempting a ridiculous 11 passes beyond 20 yards downfield in Week 1, Brady’s deep attempts were cut in half in Week 2. The Patriots got back to dominating in the short and intermediate passing game, which saw Brady’s efficiency rise considerably from a week ago.
It was a huge day for Brady, as the 447 yards were his 3rd-most in a game in his Hall of Fame career. Along with where he targeted, the Patriots and Brady also got back to the typical quick release that has extended Brady’s career into his 40s. Brady had an average time to throw of 2.94 seconds in Week 1, but that number dropped to 2.41 against the Saints, according to Pro Football Focus*.
The Patriots offense erupted for 36 points and 555 total yards of offense with Brady back in rhythm.
Wide Receivers in the Slot
Along with Brady, wide receiver Chris Hogan had a bounce-back performance against the Saints. Hogan was expected to take on a large role in the Patriots offense after Julian Edelman’s injury, and play a lions share of his snaps in the slot. We saw the Patriots put even more of an emphasis on getting Hogan the ball in Week 2 starting in the slot, and he made the Saints pay with 72 yards and a touchdown from an inside receiver position. One of the biggest gains of the game for the Pats offense came with Hogan catching a pass from the slot, and it was also a terrific play design by Josh McDaniels.
Sweet play design by McDaniels. They run this screen w/WR in motion all the time. Pump fake, Hogan delays just enough to sell it. Big play. pic.twitter.com/czRYm6vqVQ— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) September 18, 2017
Pass Protection Stats
Nate Solder is better than he gets credit for among Pats fans, but he struggled against the Saints. Solder isn't an elite left tackle, but with the current state of offensive line play how much do you think other teams would love to have Solder? Ask the Giants or Seahawks.
Solder allowed an easy sack to edge rusher Hau'oli Kikaha, who appeared to get inside hand position on the Pats left tackle, and used that to push Solder back right into Brady’s path. The 29-year-old Solder is in a contract year with the Pats making his performance this season even more interesting.
On the bright side, the Patriots have been getting great contributions from their two starting guards, Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney. Both have held up well in pass protection thus far, and have been factors in the run game as well. Mason and Thuney are young, athletic guards that could bring their games to the next level this season, which should mean the offensive line as a whole will improve.
Pass Rush/Run Stats
There were two standouts along the Patriots defensive front in Week 2: Deatrich Wise and Lawrence Guy. Wise was an absolute force rushing the passer. Leading the team with a sack, six total pressures, and four quarterback hits. The Pats fourth round pick looks like an experienced NFL player the way he rushes the passer. He doesn’t do it with elite athleticism or get off, but rather with a handful of pass rush moves that show he has a great understanding of hand placement and leverage. That will bode well for him going forward.
As for Guy, he showed us why the Patriots liked him as a free agent. The former Raven was an obvious fit as the Pats strong side defensive end. Guy tied for the team-lead with three run stops (with Elandon Roberts who also had a good game), and did a great job holding the wall on running plays to unleash the Patriots’ vintage run defense scheme. Guy’s performance could not come at a better time, as the Pats needed a run-stopping presence with Dont’a Hightower sidelined.
Looking at the numbers, Patrick Chung’s day in coverage immediately stands out. First, whenever a defensive back is targeted 14 times by an opposing quarterback it’s notable, that’s an extremely high number. However, although Chung’s day was up and down, his usage was telling. The Patriots were much better prepared this week for Saints rookie Alvin Kamara, who is the teams new receiving back. Last week, Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt burned the Patriots linebackers in coverage, so the Pats adjusted, going with Chung on Kamara more often, rather than a linebacker. The numbers don’t look great for Chung, who also got beat by a few others besides Kamara, but the strategy was a good one, especially against teams without a huge threat at tight end like Travis Kelce.
The all-22 from this game hasn’t been released yet, but when it does it will be interesting to watch big-money corner Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore had some issues against the Saints, notably on a pass where he made a mistake lining up on the same level as the corner next to him in a bunch formation, but overall has been solid in coverage. The play he was beat on by Michael Thomas was a tremendous throw and catch, and hardly his fault. Gilmore hasn’t put up great pass defense numbers yet, but he’s far from the problem on defense.
Finally, I’d like to take a second to talk about how great Devin McCourty is at playing safety. McCourty had an up and down game last week, but rebounded nicely with an All-Pro performance in New Orleans. His tackling ability and range in the secondary is incredible. McCourty is one of the best safeties in football, even if he doesn’t have gaudy interception totals.
*All Pro Football Focus Stats Found at profootballfocus.com/products/elite#edge.