The New England Patriots will have the weekend off thanks to a dominating 38-3 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday: the win secured the Patriots a first-round playoff by for the ninth straight year. Let’s dig a little deeper into New England’s final regular season game and analyze some advanced statistics from the contest.
Even though the Jets ranked as one of the worst big play defenses in the NFL entering the game, New England opted to play a safe game when it came to passing the football. Overall, quarterback Tom Brady targeted the short and intermediate areas of the field on 27 of his 33 pass attempts. The plan, however, worked very well as the Patriots moved the football effectively through the air all game long.
Brady’s counterpart, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, did not enjoy the same success. The third overall pick of the 2018 draft went only 3 of 10 on throws targeting areas more than 10 yards down the field. And even though he was solid when it came to throwing into the underneath zones, he and New York’s passing game as a whole failed to get into a consistent rhythm and really challenge the Patriots defense.
Offensive rush direction
Once again, the Patriots had tremendous success running behind the left side of their offensive line: running behind Trent Brown and Joe Thuney, both Sony Michel and James White were able to gain considerable yardage, averaging a combined 5.8 yards per carry in this direction. The success on the right side — manned by Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon — was less consistent, even though both Michel and Rex Burkhead were still able to create a few big plays.
But even though the Patriots did not post the same outstanding numbers they had a week ago against the Buffalo Bills, they still gained 134 on 27 non-kneel down carries. Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, by the way, contributed 40 yards on four runs.
New England’s primary pass catchers were generally wide open when targeted by Tom Brady, with Julian Edelman’s 5.34 yards of separation standing out. The veteran wideout made the most out of the space he was given as he finished with five catches— one of which a touchdown — for a team-high 69 yards. Meanwhile, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett were also productive: Hogan caught a team-high six passes for 64 yards, while Dorsett added five catches for 34 yards and a score.
The numbers above do not only illustrate how open the pass catchers were able to get, but also how Brady was doing a nice job of limiting the turnover risk: he did not force the football into tight windows but instead went with the best-looking matchup no matter of person. Moving forward and into the playoffs, this is certainly encouraging to see — especially considering that this was not always the case earlier this season.
New England’s defense, on the other hand, made life hard for Sam Darnold by forcing him into comparatively contested passes. While this did not result in any interceptions, the rookie completed just 57.1% of his attempts — clearly below the 66.0% he was completing in the previous three games since returning from a foot injury.
Pass protection statistics
Tom Brady played one of the best games of his 2018 season on Sunday and the pass protection played a big role. Overall, the 41-year old was pressured on just five of 34 dropbacks and looked comfortable operating in the pocket all game long. Left guard Joe Thuney, who played all 68 snaps to finish with a perfect 1,119 of 1,119 on the year, stood out in particular: he played a mistake-free game as a pass protector and is finishing an excellent season on another high note.
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||52||0.0||1||3||0|
|Deatrich Wise Jr.||31||0.0||1||0||0|
New England’s pass rush had an outstanding performance against Sam Darnold and the Jets offensive line. Led by Trey Flowers, who registered a sack and five hurries in another very good performance, New England was able to pressure the rookie passer on a ridiculous 62.5% of his dropbacks: Darnold was taken down for a sack on four plays, hit five more times and moved off his spot via a hurry on 11 more occasions — all on just 32 passing plays called by New York.
While the aforementioned Flowers was again a standout, two other players needed to be mentioned as well. Second-year man Derek Rivers did not only register his first career sack, but also hit Darnold an additional time and registered a hurry. Meanwhile, Elandon Roberts was outstanding as a run stopper from the linebacker position and stuffed three attempts for no yardage gained.
Defensive rush direction
The Jets did find some success on the ground, carrying the football 23 times for a combined 104 yards and a 4.5 average. However, remove a 28-yard scramble by Sam Darnold and the numbers look far more pedestrian: New York’s running backs were able to gain just 3.5 yards a carry against a Patriots front that once again included Danny Shelton in a prominent role as a run stuffer in the middle.
Pass rush separation
While Deatrich Wise Jr. generated only one hit on the day — coming on a Sam Darnold fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Kyle Van Noy — he was consistently getting close to the quarterback. The second-year man has been given a bigger role as of late, with veteran free agency signing Adrian Clayborn a healthy scratch in back-to-back weeks. It will be interesting to see how Wise Jr.’s role develops moving forward.
The distance between the Jets’ defenders and Tom Brady, meanwhile, was similar to that between New England’s top pass rushers and Sam Darnold. However, the Patriots’ quarterback did a tremendous job of quickly distributing the football and mostly negating the rush. The pass catchers, of course, also played a big role in this as they were able to get open without much delay.
Pass coverage statistics
|Kyle Van Noy||52||1||0||0||0||0||39.6||0|
While the Jets’ passing offense is not exactly one of the most productive in the NFL, New England’s pass coverage still needs to be praised for its performance on Sunday. The starters were able to limit their assignments throughout the day, with seventh-round rookie and primary special teamer Keion Crossen the only player standing out in a negative way by giving up a catch on all three of his targets for a combined 60 yards. The other defensive backs and linebackers, however, had a strong game when it came to covering New York’s skill position players.
Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame show! The Patriots finished the regular season strong and cruised to a win over the Jets today, clinching a first round playoff bye in the process. Send us your questions and comments!Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 30, 2018