The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs both entered the playoffs off a bye week, both dominated their respective opponents in the divisional round, and both saw multiple of their players earn distinctions as “standouts” from Pro Football Focus. The advanced analytics website hands the honor out every week, and after last weekend’s slate of games named two members of the Patriots and three of the Chiefs.
New England blew out the visiting Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 behind an outstanding first half performance in all three phases. On offense, wide receiver Julian Edelman played as big a role any player, finishing the day with nine reception for 151. PFF’s Rob Hamilton highlighted that Edelman was particularly productive from the slot and that he finished the day with 4.37 receiving yards per route run from the position:
Julian Edelman came through time and again for Brady, doing most of his damage in the slot. Edelman finished the season as the Patriots’ highest-graded receiver and ran 67.0% of his routes from the slot, totaling 550 yards, the tenth-most league-wide. On Sunday, his slot route percentage was 61.4%, finishing with seven catches on eight targets and compiling 118 of his 151 total yards.
Playing in his first postseason contest since Super Bowl 51 almost two years ago, Edelman led the Patriots’ skill position players in yards gained and was a trustworthy presence for quarterback Tom Brady down the field. The veteran did particular damage in the short and intermediate area, but also registered two catches of 25+ yards. All in all, it was a vintage and outstanding performance by Edelman.
Not any less impressive was the play of the Patriots’ defense, and according to PFF one player in particular deserves to be singled out: linebacker Kyle Van Noy. While Dont’a Hightower and Trey Flowers were more active in the front seven — the duo combined to disrupt quarterback Philip Rivers 15 times — Van Noy also had a very good day at the office, playing a big role in holding the Chargers’ offense in check for three quarters.
Hamilton singled out Van Noy’s four stops as a key number when it comes to assessing his performance:
The fifth-year veteran saved his best performance for the divisional round, making his presence felt in run defense, in pass coverage, and as a pass rusher. Van Noy had four stops (two against the run, two against the pass), three hurries, and one pass deflection while allowing only three of the eight passes in his coverage to be caught for 22 yards.
While PFF’s statistics differ a bit from the numbers compiled by the Athletic’s Jeff Howe, the gist remains the same: Van Noy had a very good game against the Chargers and played a key role in limiting a talented unit to a mere seven first half points. With the Chiefs coming up this week, another big performance out of the third-year Patriot will be needed.
Speaking of the Chiefs, Kansas City had three players listed in Pro Football Focus’ article on divisional round standouts. Tight end Travis Kelce as well as defensive linemen Dee Ford and Chris Jones all earned the distinction this week. Kelce’s key statistic is tied to his slot production as he gained 3.25 yards per route run from the slot, catching four of his five slot targets for a combined 52 yards.
Ford and Jones, meanwhile, were praised for their pass rushing productivity. Ford registered five disruptions — a sack, two quarterback hits, and two hurries — on a mere 26 pass rushing snaps, according to PFF’s statistics. He also added two run stops on 10 snaps against the ground game. Jones was almost equally productive and registered four pressures — one quarterback hit and three hurries — while also batting down three passes.
On Sunday, the Patriots need to find a way to limit the three players mentioned by Pro Football Focus for their performances in the divisional round. Not an easy task, of course, considering that they are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the Chiefs’ talent on both sides of the football.