The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs played an epic AFC Championship Game on Sunday, one that was not decided until overtime. New England ultimately prevailed 37-31 to punch its third straight ticket to the Super Bowl. Let’s dig a little deeper into the snap count numbers from the Patriots’ thrilling win — their 13th victory of the season — to get an impression of how they used their personnel.
Total snaps: 97
QB Tom Brady (97; 100%), OT Trent Brown (97; 100%), OG Joe Thuney (97; 100%), OC David Andrews (97; 100%), OG Shaq Mason (97; 100%), OT Marcus Cannon (97; 100%), TE Rob Gronkowski (97; 100%), WR Julian Edelman (93; 96%), WR Chris Hogan (72; 74%), FB James Develin (41; 42%), WR Phillip Dorsett (36; 37%), RB Sony Michel (34; 35%), RB James White (33; 34%), RB Rex Burkhead (30; 31%), TE Dwayne Allen (27; 28%), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (18; 19%), OT LaAdrian Waddle (4; 4%)
New England’s offense was on the field for a total of 97 snaps — the highest in any game since 2001 — and the fact that it was still able to function well late in the fourth quarter and overtime is a testament to the team’s training staff. Strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera and his assistant Deron Mayo deserve plenty of praise for once again building a physically tough unit that is not running out of gas that easily.
When looking at the concrete numbers, we can see that seven players were on the field for all 97 snaps: the starting offensive line, quarterback Tom Brady, and tight end Rob Gronkowski did not leave the field. All of them delivered very good performances against Kansas City, as did some of the team’s other core players on offense — from wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan to the team’s rushing attack.
Speaking of which, the Patriots’ offensive backfield saw plenty of action against a Chiefs’ front that has proven vulnerable against the run this year. Led by James Develin’s season-high 41 snaps, the group delivered an impressive performance and finished with 177 yards on 47 non-kneel down carries (3.8 yards per run) as well as four scores — two each by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead.
Total snaps: 52
DE Trey Flowers (52; 100%), LB Dont’a Hightower (52; 100%), LB Kyle Van Noy (52; 100%), CB Stephon Gilmore (52; 100%), SS Patrick Chung (52; 100%), CB J.C. Jackson (51; 98%), FS Devin McCourty (50; 96%), CB Jonathan Jones (41; 79%), CB Jason McCourty (35; 67%), DE John Simon (31; 60%), DT Adam Butler (23; 44%), DT Lawrence Guy (18; 35%), LB Elandon Roberts (18; 35%), DE Adrian Clayborn (18; 35%), DT Malcom Brown (17; 33%), CB Keion Crossen (8; 15%), FS Duron Harmon (2; 4%)
Five of the Patriots’ defenders did not leave the field on Sunday — and only two of them came from the defensive backfield: front seven defenders Trey Flowers, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy joined cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Patrick Chung as the team’s iron men on Sunday. All five played integral roles in helping limit the impact of Kansas City’s explosive offense, especially in the first half.
In order to slow down the NFL’s best offense, the Patriots used a heavy dose of Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty double-covering All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Jones, who saw his biggest playing time share since week four, kept Hill without a catch on two targets (Hill’s lone reception came against Keion Crossen). New England also used its cornerbacks to go against All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, who also had a quiet night.
Along the defensive line, the Patriots decided against using Danny Shelton and instead went with Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown as their defensive tackle group. While a comparatively light package, the trio was able to control the point of attack against both the run and the pass and set things up well for second-level blitzes.
Total snaps: 31
FS Nate Ebner (26; 84%), WR Matthew Slater (21; 68%), LB Brandon King (19; 61%), LB Albert McClellan (19; 61%), LB Ramon Humber (19; 61%), RB Rex Burkhead (18; 58%), CB Jonathan Jones (17; 55%), DT Adam Butler (15; 48%), DE John Simon (14; 45%), SS Patrick Chung (14; 45%), DT Lawrence Guy (12; 39%), K Stephen Gostkowski (11; 35%), FS Devin McCourty (11; 35%), CB Keion Crossen (11; 35%), FB James Develin (10; 32%), LB Kyle Van Noy (10; 32%), LS Joe Cardona (8; 26%), P Ryan Allen (8; 26%), WR Chris Hogan (7; 23%), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (7; 23%), RB James White (7; 23%), DT Malcom Brown (7; 23%), LB Dont’a Hightower (7; 23%), OG Shaq Mason (5; 16%), OT Trent Brown (5; 16%), OG Joe Thuney (5; 16%), OT Marcus Cannon (5; 16%), WR Julian Edelman (5; 16%), OT LaAdrian Waddle (5; 16%), OC Ted Karras (5; 16%), CB Jason McCourty (5; 16%), SS Obi Melifonwu (3; 10%)
Ten Patriots played exclusively on special teams on Sunday, with safety Obi Melifownu one of them: the former second-round draft pick was active for the first time since week 13 but saw only limited action by playing three kicking game snaps. Melifonwu did, however, register a tackle in the kicking game.
What also stands out is once again the heavy special teams workload for Patrick Chung: besides playing all 52 defensive snaps, the veteran also was on the field for 14 of 31 kicking game snaps.