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Week 15 Patriots vs Steelers snap count report: New England’s defense went all-in against the pass

Notes on the Patriots’ snap count numbers from their loss against the Steelers.

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 2009, the New England Patriots will finish a regular season with more than four losses: the team dropped its fifth game of the year yesterday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let’s take a look at some of the snap count numbers from the team’s 17-10 defeat to get an impression of how the Patriots used their personnel.

The Patriots used their entire secondary depth

Pittsburgh’s offense has one of the most potent passing attacks in all of football, and the Patriots invested a lot to slow it down as a look at the snap count numbers shows: seven defensive backs played more than 40% of the team’s defensive snaps. Jason McCourty (64 of 64; 100%) did not leave the field, while Stephon Gilmore (61; 95%), J.C. Jackson (57; 89%) and Jonathan Jones (26; 41%) also saw noticeable playing time at cornerback. The safety position, meanwhile, saw Devin McCourty (62; 97%) and Patrick Chung (59; 92%) rarely leave the field, with Duron Harmon (39; 61%) serving as the number three.

New England went pass-first in the front seven

With New England playing mostly nickel and dime packages, the front seven also was in a pass-first alignment for most of the day. Consequently, pass rushing defensive tackle Adam Butler was on the field for 53% of the snaps (34 of 64) — the same number as Malcom Brown (34; 53%) and one more snap than Lawrence Guy (33; 52%) — while linebacker Elandon Roberts played just eight snaps (12%). Speaking of linebackers: after Dont’a Hightower averaged 93% of snaps over the last two weeks, he was on the field for “just” 80% on Sunday (51).

Chris Hogan had his most active game since the bye week...

The Patriots’ top-three at the wide receiver position remain unchanged: Julian Edelman (58 of 62; 94%) and Josh Gordon (57; 92%) are the every-down options with Chris Hogan (39; 63%) serving as the number three. Hogan, in fact, had his most active day since New England’s week 11 bye: after averaging a playing time share of 41% over the last three games, he was on the field for almost two-thirds of offensive snaps.

...while Dwayne Allen was quiet in his return to the field

After missing the Patriots’ previous three games due to a knee injury, Dwayne Allen returned to the field on Sunday. However, the veteran had a quiet day despite fellow tight end Jacob Hollister being inactive: Allen was on the field for just three offensive snaps (of 62; 5%) and did not register any statistics. He added four more snaps (of 20; 20%) in the kicking game but overall had a quiet day.

Ten players played exclusively on special teams

With the exception of backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, the Patriots used all players on their game day roster. Of the 46 men to dress for the meeting with the Steelers, ten played only in the kicking game: Nate Ebner (18 of 20; 90%) led the group in playing time with Brandon King (14; 70%), Matthew Slater (13; 65%), Ramon Humber (13; 65%) and Albert McClellan (13; 65%) serving as the other core specialists. The kicking operation trio — long snapper Joe Cardona (7; 35%), punter Ryan Allen (7; 35%), kicker Stephen Gostkowski (5; 25%) — and backup linemen Ted Karras (2; 10%) and LaAdrian Waddle (2; 10%) were also exclusively used on special teams.

Nine players were on the field for 100% of snaps

Seven of the Patriots’ offensive players did not leave the field on Sunday: quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and the five starters along the offensive line played all 62 of New England’s offensive snaps. On the defensive side of the ball, Kyle Van Noy and Jason McCourty were the only players to be on the field for every one of the unit’s 64 snaps.

Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show: Week 15

Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show! After a tough loss on the road in Pittsburgh, host Brian Phillips breaks down what we just witnessed.

Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 16, 2018