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2019 AFC Championship Game: The Patriots won against the Chiefs in the trenches

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

NFL: AFC Championship Game-New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl thanks to a thrilling overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. The 37-31 game started with New England jumping to an early 14-point lead, before the Chiefs climbed back to force the game into the fifth quarter — one that saw the Patriots pull out the victory to advance to their third straight world championship game.

Let’s dig a little deeper into New England’s playoff opener and analyze some advanced statistics from the contest.

Pass distribution

NFL Next Gen Stats

Despite throwing two interceptions, Tom Brady had a generally good day against the Chiefs. Given plenty of time to scan the field and go through his progressions, the 41-year old was particularly productive when targeting the short boundaries and the intermediate middle of the field. And even though he did not go deep often, Brady kept the defense honest with the occasional downfield attempt.

Likely league MVP Patrick Mahomes was not afraid to target all areas of the field, but he was not always successful in doing so. While he was perfect on short throws behind the line of scrimmage, the 24-year old had a tougher time going deep with New England’s downfield coverage doing a tremendous job against his All-Pro weapons Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Mahomes still made plenty of big plays but was kept in check in the first half.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

Just like they did in week six, the Patriots dominated the Chiefs on the ground to the tune of 177 yards and four scores on 47 non-kneel down carries. The most successful of the team’s three primary backs was once again Sony Michel: the rookie finished the day with 113 yards on the ground — his second 100-yard performance in as many career postseason games — and helped New England control the pace of the game for most of the day.

While Rex Burkhead and James White were a bit less successful from a per-play perspective, they still made their rushing attempts count — especially Burkhead. While he failed to pick up a 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter, the second-year Patriot bounced back nicely and scored both the go-ahead touchdown late in regulation as well as the game-winner in overtime.

As the graphics above show, the Patriots found success no matter which direction they targeted. One thing that does stand out, however, is that all four touchdowns were scored on off-tackle runs (three of them coming behind the left side) which speaks for the job tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, and fullback James Develin were doing as run blockers.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

The Patriots’ wide receivers were pretty tightly covered for most of the day, with Cordarrelle Patterson’s 3.04 yards of separation on any given target leading the team. For comparison, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan — all of whom making big catches in crunch time — were not that wide open. However, Brady trusted them to make plays regardless and more often than not they did just that.

Kansas City’s main receiving weapons, meanwhile, had a tougher time — especially the aforementioned Tyreek Hill. Playing a bracket coverage primarily with Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty on the wideout, Patrick Mahomes targeted him just three times. Only one of the passes was completed for a 42-yard gain when Keion Crossen lost Hill behind him. For most of the day, however, he was removed from the contest by the Patriots’ defensive backfield.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Marcus Cannon 97 0.0 0 2
David Andrews 97 0.0 0 1
Shaq Mason 97 0.0 0 1
Trent Brown 97 0.0 0 0
Joe Thuney 97 0.0 0 0

Despite playing 97 snaps and playing on the road and going against the NFL’s best pass rushing team in terms of sacks, the Patriots’ offensive line kept Tom Brady mostly clean. He was neither sacked nor hit even once, and only hurried on four of his 46 drop-backs. In short: Dante Scarnecchia’s unit was outstanding, with the left side in particular standing out. Neither tackle Trent Brown nor guard Joe Thuney allowed any disruptions of the quarterback. A dominant outing by the duo and the rest of the line as well.

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 2.0 1 1 1
Trey Flowers 52 1.0 1 3 0
Dont'a Hightower 52 0.0 2 1 0
Patrick Chung 52 0.0 1 1 0
Devin McCourty 50 0.0 1 0 0
John Simon 31 0.5 0 0 0
Adam Butler 23 0.0 1 0 0
Lawrence Guy 18 0.5 0 0 0
Adrian Clayborn 18 0.0 1 0 0
Elandon Roberts 18 0.0 0 0 1

New England made life hard on Patrick Mahomes, especially in the first half. Using a variety of stunts, blitzes, and other pressure packages, the Patriots registered 18 disruptions on the day: Mahomes was sacked four times, hit eight times, and hurries six times. The standout performers were the usual suspects Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers, who registered a combined 10 pressures on just 35 dropbacks. New England was outstanding up front for most of the day.

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

With Kansas City falling behind 14-0 in the first half, the team was pretty much forced to abandon the run quickly. On the day, the team registered just twelve carries with only ten of them coming from a running back: Damien Williams, who was very good as a receiving back — he finished with five catches for 66 yards and two scores — but ran for just 30 yards on the day. The disparity in time of possession is a result of this: New England held the football for almost 44 minutes compared to the Chiefs’ 20:53.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

It is no stretch of the imagination to say that New England won Sunday’s game in the trenches — and this graphic illustrates it perfectly. While the Patriots’ defenders were able to get close to the quarterback on any given pass rushing down, the Chiefs’ tremendous pass rush was kept in check all day long. There are multiple reasons for that beyond just the individual play of the men listed, though.

Offensively, the Patriots kept Kansas City honest with a healthy mix of run and pass while Tom Brady also was able to get rid of the football fairly quickly. Furthermore, New England’s conditioning played a big role as the players appeared to be at full strength deep into the game and its overtime period. On the other side of the ball, meanwhile, the team’s creative blitz and pass rushing schemes put pressure on the offensive line and by extension Patrick Mahomes.

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
Kyle Van Noy 52 5 4 79 1 0 158.3 0
Stephon Gilmore 52 4 1 54 0 0 79.2 0
Dont'a Hightower 52 2 1 1 1 0 95.8 0
J.C. Jackson 51 6 3 77 1 0 135.4 0
Jonathan Jones 41 2 0 0 0 0 39.6 1
Jason McCourty 35 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 1
Elandon Roberts 18 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Keion Crossen 8 1 1 42 0 0 118.8 0

New England’s coverage statistics do not look outstanding but going against the NFL’s best passing offense they should still be seen as a success. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower both gave up touchdowns, but were otherwise solid in playing downhill in the passing game or taking away the underneath zones. Likewise, the secondary had a good day when it comes to taking away primary weapons Hill and Kelce and forcing Mahomes to go through his reads and to secondary targets like Sammy Watkins and Damien Williams.

Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show: AFC Championship Edition The Patriots win a wild one and are headed to Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta!

Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, January 20, 2019