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Patriots vs Bengals advanced stats: New England’s offensive line had a solid day against Cincinnati

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Related: Patriots vs Bengals snap counts: N’Keal Harry emerges as New England’s third wide receiver

NFL: DEC 15 Patriots at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots may not have played a perfect game in Week 15, but they were certainly good enough to return to the win column after back-to-back defeats: the reigning world champions went on the road and beat the now-1-13 Cincinnati Bengals with a final score of 34-13 — making big plays in all three phases of the game along the way. But what did the Patriots do particularly well or poorly throughout the contest?

Let’s dig a little deeper into the advanced statistics to find out.

Pass distribution

NFL Next Gen Stats

Tom Brady had an up-and-down day against the Bengals. On one hand, he was able to distribute the football beyond his two favorite targets — wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White — and finish a game with at least two touchdowns and no interceptions for the first time since Week 8. On the other hand, however, he rushed through his throws too often and was off the mark twice on potential touchdown passes despite the protection up front usually holding up well.

While Brady played a mostly solid but unspectacular game against Cincinnati, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a bad day. While he performed well when the team’s running game carried the offense early, he struggled when asked to do the same. The results were disastrous: Dalton, who had already been benched once earlier this season for inconsistent play, threw four interceptions — including a pick-six — and was unable to get the passing game into much of a rhythm against arguably the NFL’s best defense.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

After failing to establish a presence on the ground against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14, the Patriots’ running game bounced back nicely against Cincinnati. Led by Sony Michel, who averaged 4.7 yards per rushing attempt and generally looked good no matter in which direction he ran, the unit gained a season-high 177 yards on 30 carries and also scored a touchdown when Rex Burkhead found the end zone from 33 yards out in the fourth quarter.

New England did not just get contributions from its running backs, however, but also saw first-round rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry gain 22 yards on two jet-sweep runs to the left side of the formation. All in all, the running game had a solid day against the Bengals: the backs ran well, while the blocking up front — once again including a heavy dose of fullback-linebacker-hybrid Elandon Roberts — also played its part.

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
Mohamed Sanu 56 6 2 13 3 0 0 42.4 1
Matt LaCosse 49 3 3 22 5 0 0 97.2 0
Julian Edelman 40 5 2 9 1 0 0 47.9 0
N'Keal Harry 38 4 2 15 2 1 0 99.0 0
Sony Michel 27 2 1 14 17 0 0 72.9 0
James White 25 4 3 49 49 1 0 155.2 1
Rex Burkhead 20 2 2 6 14 0 0 79.2 0
Pro Football Focus

With Julian Edelman seeing a lower playing time share than usual, the Patriots turned to Mohamed Sanu as their number one receiver — and the results were mixed: Sanu caught just two of the six passes thrown his way for a combined 13 yards, with him also failing to come away with the catch on a fourth down attempt in the second quarter. While he appears to get closer to full health after his Week 11 ankle injury, it is obvious that Sanu and Tom Brady are not yet on the same page on a down-to-down basis.

In general, the Patriots’ passing game again had its highs and lows. Seeing N’Keal Harry being targeted four times and catching two passes — including a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter — was certainly encouraging, as was Matt LaCosse making a reception on all three of the balls thrown his way. However, the unit still struggled to consistently provide Brady with open targets as Edelman in particular was essentially a non-factor outside of being a decoy.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

While N’Keal Harry made only two receptions on four passes thrown his way, Brady trusted the youngster even when he was closely covered as a look at the receiver separation chart shows. On average, Harry was open by just one yard when targeted but the future Hall of Fame quarterback still opted to get him involved in the passing game: the rookie gained a combined 15 yards on his two catches with one going for a first down and the other for a score.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Marcus Cannon 65 1.0 0 0
Isaiah Wynn 65 0.0 1 1
Joe Thuney 65 0.0 0 0
Ted Karras 65 0.0 0 0
Shaq Mason 56 0.0 0 1
Matt LaCosse 49 0.0 0 3
Jeff Howe

While Tom Brady appeared to be under consistent pressure yet again, the pass protection actually did hold up quite well against a talented front-seven upon further review. Outside of two sacks in the second quarter — only one of which the result of bad protection; Marcus Cannon was the culprit — the offensive line did its job: Joe Thuney and Ted Karras both did not give up a single quarterback disruption, with Shaq Mason only allowing one hurry before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter.

All in all, Brady was disrupted on just seven of his 31 drop-backs for a pressure rate of 22.6%. In combination with some sound running blocking, one can therefore certainly say that the Patriots’ offensive line had a solid performance in Cincinnati. While it was not perfect, it did play its role in the offense having one of the better days of its season.

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
Dont'a Hightower 53 0.0 1 0 0
Jamie Collins Sr. 52 0.0 0 1 0
Kyle Van Noy 49 0.0 2 1 0
Deatrich Wise Jr. 46 0.0 2 0 0
Lawrence Guy 45 0.0 0 1 0
Danny Shelton 42 0.0 0 0 1
Adam Butler 30 0.0 0 0 1
Duron Harmon 27 0.0 1 0 0
Ja'Whaun Bentley 27 0.0 0 0 1
Chase Winovich 16 0.0 0 1 0
Jeff Howe

For just the second time all season, the Patriots’ offense was unable to register a sack. The pass rush in general was somewhat inconsistent as Andy Dalton was pressured on 10 of his 32 drop-backs (31.3%). But while the front-seven also had a hard time containing the Bengals’ ground attack especially early on, the unit did still have some good moments: from stopping running back Joe Mixon on fourth-and-one in the second quarter, to getting contributions from numerous players across the defensive depth chart.

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

As noted above, the Patriots had a hard time containing the Bengals’ ground attack on a consistent basis. While the run defense improved a little from the second quarter on — particularly on first and second down, which subsequently played in the hands of New England’s opportunistic secondary — Cincinnati was still able to finish the game with 165 rushing yards on 31 carries and an average of 5.3 yards per rush.

New England was able to limit stretch runs to the offensive left side of the formation, but both Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard were still able to do considerable damage elsewhere: be it because of gap discipline or simply due to defenders failing to finish tackles, the Patriots’ inconsistent run defense in the first quarter allowed Cincinnati to control the tempo and rhythm of the game early on.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

While slowing Bengals pass rusher Carlos Dunlap down was a problem — he registered four total pressures, including a second quarter sack against Marcus Cannon — the Patriots were usually able to keep defenders away from Brady. On the other side of the ball, meanwhile, the team was not able to get close to Andy Dalton. Kyle Van Noy, who finished the contest with a team-high three quarterback disruptions, proved to be the team’s most consistent 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
Stephon Gilmore 66 6 2 24 0 2 6.9 2
Dont'a Hightower 53 2 1 11 0 0 66.7 0
J.C. Jackson 52 6 2 21 0 2 4.8 1
Jamie Collins Sr. 52 1 1 1 0 0 79.2 0
Patrick Chung 46 2 1 19 0 0 83.3 0
Jonathan Jones 30 2 2 12 1 0 131.3 0
Ja'Whaun Bentley 27 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Terrence Brooks 20 3 2 27 0 0 95.1 0
Jeff Howe

When the Patriots started to adapt to Cincinnati’s ground attack, the Bengals had to throw the ball more often and New England’s secondary certainly was ready. Two players in particular stood out: Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson registered two interceptions each — the first time since 1986 that the team had two defenders pick off at least two passes in the same contest — with Gilmore even returning one of his picks 65 yards for a touchdown.

The two starting perimeter cornerbacks had tremendous days while matched up primarily against Cincinnati wide receivers Tyler Boyd and John Ross: Dalton inexplicably targeted Gilmore and Jackson 12 times but completed the same number of passes to them than he did to his own receivers. His passer rating of 5.9 when throwing in the direction of the two defenders reflects just how well they played, and how the Patriots’ pass defense shut down the Bengals’ aerial attack in the second half.