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Patriots vs Chiefs advanced stats: New England’s pass protection a major liability against Kansas City

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Related: Patriots vs Chiefs snap counts: Sony Michel, N’Keal Harry play only marginal roles

Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Just like they did one week earlier during their loss to the Houston Texans, the New England Patriots went on a late rally against the Kansas City Chiefs but ultimately came up short: the team lost with a final score of 23-16, falling to 10-3 on the year. While the team still controls its own destiny in the AFC’s playoff race, New England again played inconsistent football — especially on the offensive side of the ball — against one of the top teams in the league.

But what were the main issues for the Patriots during the contest? Let’s dig a little deeper into the advanced statistics to come out of the game to find out.

Pass distribution

NFL Next Gen Stats

Patrick Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and him winning his fair share of battles had to be expected. However, New England’s defense did not make life easy for the third-year passer: he was challenged by different coverages and rush packages, and also threw an interception to cornerback J.C. Jackson. Ultimately, his effectiveness when going deep and targeting the short middle of the field proved to be a difference in the game, though.

Tom Brady, meanwhile, also had a good outing even though his numbers may not show it — especially beyond 10 yards from the line of scrimmage: the 42-year-old completed just three of 10 deep and medium throws for a combined 60 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Considering that he was pressured on almost half of his drop-backs, saw three of his passes dropped, and had to throw three more away, however, Brady did play a comparatively solid game.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

The Patriots were willing to test the ground game early on, but eventually failed to establish a dominating presence against a mediocre run defense — and were therefore unable to duplicate the success they found in January’s AFC Championship Game. Lead-back Sony Michel received only five carries for eight yards, with Rex Burkhead and James White seeing a bigger share of the action. Burkhead was largely ineffective and averaged just 2.1 yards per attempt, but White was able to do some damage when running out of spread formations.

Pass receiving

Pass receiving statistics

Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Yards after Catch Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Drops
Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Yards after Catch Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Drops
Julian Edelman 66 11 8 95 29 1 0 129.0 0
Matt LaCosse 54 4 2 14 0 0 1 18.8 0
James White 41 7 5 27 31 0 0 77.7 1
Mohamed Sanu 39 1 1 13 3 0 0 118.8 0
Jakobi Meyers 38 3 1 35 26 0 0 78.5 2
Phillip Dorsett II 33 3 0 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Benjamin Watson 32 2 1 7 5 0 0 58.3 0
Sony Michel 9 1 1 1 2 0 0 79.2 0
N'Keal Harry 2 1 1 12 13 0 0 116.7 0
Pro Football Focus

Once again, the Patriots’ passing game was dominated by two targets: Julian Edelman was on the receiving end of 11 passes thrown by Tom Brady, with James White seeing seven come his way. The duo had solid all-around games despite not positing overly spectacular numbers, but New England’s passing game still sputtered for another week. Why? The rest of the receivers were unable to rise to the occasion and consistently provide Brady with other options.

Jakobi Meyers caught just one pass — on a halfback pass by White — while dropping two more passes. Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry were targeted just once all game. Phillip Dorsett drew a pass interference penalty (and should have drawn a second), but failed to impact the game in any other form. Matt LaCosse continued to see action as a receiver, but he again was unable to bring much more to the table than the occasional short catch.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

While Patrick Mahomes’ targets needed to be open for him to throw them the football, Tom Brady was more willing to let his receivers make a play on the ball — especially Phillip Dorsett, who was open only 0.54 yards on the three passes that headed his way. Matt LaCosse also was comparatively tightly covered on is four targets, with one of them ending in an interception by Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Isaiah Wynn 67 1.0 2 3
Marcus Cannon 67 1.0 2 0
James Ferentz 67 1.0 1 2
Shaq Mason 67 0.0 1 1
Joe Thuney 67 0.0 1 0
Matt LaCosse 54 0.0 0 2
Sony Michel 9 0.0 1 0
Jeff Howe

With starting center Ted Karras missing the game with a knee injury, New England had some major issues keeping pressure away from Tom Brady. Karras’ replacement, James Ferentz, was only one part of the problem: with the exception of left guard Joe Thuner, the Patriots struggled across the board and gave up a combined 19 quarterback disruptions for a pressure rate of 46.3%.

Winning games when your quarterback is under pressure on every second pass play is near impossible, and something New England needs to improve with the playoffs on the horizon. How could a potential fix look like? Getting Karras back should help, but the line as a whole simply needs to improve its communication and execute better.

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
Patrick Chung 77 0.0 0 0 1
Dont'a Hightower 68 0.0 1 2 0
Jamie Collins Sr. 68 0.0 1 0 1
Kyle Van Noy 60 0.0 1 3 1
J.C. Jackson 59 0.0 0 0 1
John Simon 36 0.0 1 0 0
Deatrich Wise Jr. 27 1.0 1 0 0
Danny Shelton 25 0.0 1 1 1
Chase Winovich 24 0.0 1 0 0
Shilique Calhoun 21 0.0 0 1 0
Jeff Howe

As noted above, the Patriots’ defense made life hard for Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the pass rush statistics show: eight different players were able to get at least one pressure, with linebacker Kyle Van Noy’s four — he had a quarterback hit as well as three hurries — leading the way. While New England only took down Mahomes once and he was able to lead his team to 23 straight points, the play of the defensive front seven kept him off-balance for extended portions of the day.

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

New England, unsurprisingly, focused on stopping the pass but the Chiefs’ ground game was unable to take advantage: led by LeSean McCoy and recent addition Spencer Ware, Kansas City gained only 75 yards on 24 carries for an average of 2.6 yards per run — not exactly terrific numbers and something the Patriots can certainly feel good about. Unfortunately, one of the Chiefs’ runs led to a touchdown: tight end Travis Kelce received the direct snap from a wildcat formation and ran the ball in up the gut for a 4-yard score on third-and-goal.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

Chris Jones is one of the most talented interior pass rushers in the NFL, and the Patriots had a hard time containing him as his 4.2-yard distance to Tom Brady per average rush attempt shows. He was not the only player to find success against New England’s offensive line, however, as the Chiefs had a similar depth to their pass rush as the Patriots. The home, team, meanwhile, was — as noted above — led by Kyle Van Noy: the veteran linebacker found success as an edge-setter in the running game and when attacking the pocket as a pass rusher.

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
Jonathan Jones 78 6 5 86 1 0 158.3 0
Stephon Gilmore 78 6 2 13 0 0 42.4 1
Devin McCourty 78 3 3 10 0 0 80.6 0
Patrick Chung 77 3 2 21 0 0 86.8 0
Jamie Collins Sr. 68 4 1 -8 0 0 39.6 1
J.C. Jackson 59 2 1 12 0 1 29.2 0
Terrence Brooks 14 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Jeff Howe

Given the fact that a) starting outside cornerback Jonathan Jones played a mere four snaps in his return from a groin injury, and b) Kansas City has arguably the deepest receiving corps in all of football, New England’s pass coverage held up well. Starting perimeter cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson looked good and allowed only three receptions on eight targets for 25 yards and an interception.

However, the Chiefs found success attacking the third starting cornerback: Jonathan Jones, who was primarily matched up with All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, surrendered five catches on six targets for 86 yards and a touchdown: Jones gave up a 21-yard reception to Hill on third-and-19, and also lost track of Mecole Hardman on the rookie receiver’s 48-yard touchdown in the second quarter.