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Week 16 Patriots vs Bills advanced stats: New England’s pass defense had a field day against Buffalo

Let’s dig into the advanced stats from Sunday’s game.

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots are back in the win column thanks to a victory over the visiting Buffalo Bills on Sunday. While it had its fair share of miscues, the home team was in control of the contest from start to finish and ultimately won with a final score of 24-12. Let’s dig a little deeper into the game and analyze some advanced statistics from the game.

Pass distribution

NFL Next Gen Stats

The Patriots’ passing offense had an unproductive day and what stands out when looking at the pass distribution is that it was content with attacking the underneath zones: of Tom Brady’s 24 pass attempts only three targeted areas more than 10 yards down the field — and none of them was completed. New England primarily worked in the short and intermediate range and found some success, which was all that was needed with the team’s running game dominating.

Buffalo and its big-armed quarterback Josh Allen, in the meantime, was more willing to attack down the field. However, the success was limited: Allen completed only 5 of 19 throws that traveled more than 10 yards downfield — for 97 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions — as the Patriots’ secondary hat a very good game against the Bills’ wide receivers.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

After two straight weeks of struggling to establish a presence on the ground, the Patriots were outstanding running the football against the Bills — and no player was better than Sony Michel. The rookie was New England’s most productive offensive weapon against Buffalo and found success no matter which gaps he attacked. On a per-snap basis, however, he was at his best running behind the left side of the line: Michel gained 9.4 yards per carry when attacking this area.

James White and Rex Burkhead served as solid complementary runners, with White in particular finding success. The running statistics serve as proof of how well all three players — especially Michel — performed on Sunday, and just how dominant the Patriots’ run blockers were.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

While Buffalo’s receivers were able to get some separation on the Patriots’ defensive backs but where generally contained well when targeted. The same goes for the Bills defense, which played tight coverage on New England’s primary passing targets: with the exception of Cordarrelle Patterson, who did most of his damage as a ball carrier, the Patriots’ pass catchers were covered tightly. As a result, Tom Brady oftentimes went to running backs and they ended up catching 6 of 13 pass completions on the day.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Trent Brown 75 0.0 5 0
Shaq Mason 75 0.0 1 1
Joe Thuney 75 0.0 0 3
Marcus Cannon 75 0.0 0 0
David Andrews 75 0.0 0 0
James White 29 0.0 0 1
Sony Michel 23 1.0 0 0

New England’s pass protectors gave up only one sack and one quarterback hit on the day, but the unit still allowed Tom Brady to get pressured fairly regularly. The left side of the offensive line — which stood out when it came to run blocking — was particularly susceptible to pressure: Trent Brown and Joe Thuney combined to allow eight of them on just 26 pass blocking snaps. It did not matter much in the grand scheme of things but it may have contributed to the passing game as a whole struggling to get into a rhythm.

Pass rush/run defense

Pass rush/run defense statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Run stops
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Run stops
Kyle Van Noy 58 0.0 1 2 0
Dont'a Hightower 58 0.0 0 2 0
Trey Flowers 45 0.0 6 3 0
Deatrich Wise Jr. 33 0.0 2 2 0
Adam Butler 30 0.0 0 1 0
Lawrence Guy 21 0.0 1 0 0
Danny Shelton 18 0.0 0 1 0
Ufomba Kamalu 13 0.0 0 0 1

One name stands out again when looking at the Patriots’ front seven statistics: Trey Flowers. The fourth-year man was again terrific when it came to putting pressure on an opposing quarterback as he registered a combined nine hurries on the day. Flowers was not the only player worth mentioning, however, as fellow defensive edge Deatrich Wise Jr. also had a productive day in an expanded role with Adrian Clayborn a healthy scratch: the second-year man registered four hurries on the day while playing his most snaps since the bye week.

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

The Patriots were not only outstanding when it came to running the football, they also had a successful day limiting the Bills’ ground game. LeSean McCoy was a non-factor all day, while Keith Ford — who had some success especially running to the defensive left side — also did not receive consistent carries. New England also did a very good job of containing Josh Allen, the most dangerous scrambling quarterback in the NFL.

Allen ran the football just five times all day and finished with a mere 30 yards on the ground. The Patriots defensive front played a disciplined game and was able to keep the first-round rookie from getting through the line and to the second level. For a unit that had its fair share of issues against other mobile quarterbacks this season, this can be seen as an encouraging development.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

New England’s offensive line did not do a lot of pass blocking against the Bills but was inconsistent in this area. Defensive right-side edge rusher Trent Murphy in particular was active and found some success against the aforementioned Trent Brown — and his average separation from the quarterback illustrates this. The player to come closest to the passer all day, however, played for the Patriots: Deatrich Wise Jr. looked comfortable in an expanded role and was able to put the heat on Josh Allen on a consistent basis.

Pass coverage

Pass coverage statistics

Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Pass Breakups
Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Pass Breakups
Devin McCourty 61 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
J.C. Jackson 61 2 0 0 0 1 0.0 0
Dont'a Hightower 58 1 1 19 0 0 118.8 0
Kyle Van Noy 58 1 1 0 0 0 79.2 0
Patrick Chung 55 5 1 0 0 0 39.6 0
Stephon Gilmore 51 6 1 16 0 0 39.6 0
Jason McCourty 33 8 2 37 1 1 46.4 1
Jonathan Jones 24 3 1 11 0 0 45.1 0
Elandon Roberts 23 1 1 5 0 0 87.5 0
Keion Crossen 14 3 2 18 0 0 82.6 0

New England’s secondary had a field day against Buffalo’s passing attack. Led by the cornerback trio of Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty — a group that allowed only three completions all day —, the unit surrendered a mere 217 passing yards with a noticeable part of them coming during garbage time. While the Bills are not exactly an offensive powerhouse especially through the air, it is still encouraging to see the Patriots’ secondary flat-out dominate from start to finish.