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Patriots vs Bills advanced stats: New England’s offensive line is trending in the right direction

Related: Patriots vs Bills snap counts: Rookie class sees regular playing time during New England’s win

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the opponent, the New England Patriots might just have played one of their best games of the season in Week 16 against the Buffalo Bills: the offense moved the football well against the number two scoring defense in the NFL, while the defense made the crucial stops when it had to to preserve the 24-17 victory. With that being said, let’s dig a little deeper into the advanced statistics to find out.

Pass distribution

Next Gen Stats

Josh Allen played a mostly solid game against the Patriots’ outstanding secondary. He completed two deep pass attempts that had a major impact on the game — a 33-yarder to Dawson Knox that set up a touchdown near the end of the first half, the other a 53-yard touchdown to John Brown — and also found success in the short and intermediate range. That being said, the second-year passer was also inaccurate on numerous occasions and struggled throwing to his right. An up-and-down day for an up-and-down quarterback.

Tom Brady, meanwhile, played one of his best games of the season and looked noticeably more confident in the pocket than he had over the last few weeks. All in all, he completed 78.8% of his passes for 271 yards and a score. While only going deep once all day, the future Hall of Famer was very good in the short and intermediate area of the field which helped the Patriots string positive plays together and march the football down the field. If Brady and New England’s offense play like this moving forward, they can definitely make some noise in the postseason.

Offensive rush direction

Next Gen Stats

The Bills field one of the best defenses in the NFL, but the Patriots were able to exploit its biggest weakness: stopping the run. Led by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, New England averaged 4.4 yards on its 33 carries and scored the eventual game-winning touchdown when Burkhead found the end zone from one yard out. All in all, the ground game — from the backs to the blockers up front — performed well and also contributed to the Patriots controlling the rhythm of the game.

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 70 5 3 24 2 0 0 72.1 0
Julian Edelman 52 6 5 72 21 0 0 116.7 0
Matt LaCosse 46 1 1 8 1 1 0 139.6 0
N'Keal Harry 37 2 2 21 17 0 0 110.4 0
James White 33 4 4 24 13 0 0 91.7 0
Benjamin Watson 31 3 3 15 4 0 0 87.5 0
Sony Michel 31 1 1 5 7 0 0 87.5 0
Rex Burkhead 19 4 4 77 70 0 0 118.8 0
Jakobi Meyers 14 3 3 25 6 0 0 101.4 0
Pro Football Focus

New England’s offense had a good day, and the aerial attack played a big role in it as well. Whether it is Matt LaCosse catching his first touchdown pass in a Patriots uniform, Rex Burkhead tying his season-highs in both catches and receiving yards, or the two rookie receivers contributing in their limited roles the team’s skill position players generally performed well in the passing game and appeared to develop some nice rapport with Tom Brady — something that has not always been the case over the last couple of weeks.

Receiver separation

Next Gen Stats

While Josh Allen generally only targeted his pass catchers when they were at least somewhat open, Tom Brady put more trust in his receivers to make plays even with defenders close by — with mixed results: while Benjamin Watson caught both of the balls thrown his way, and Julian Edelman went five-of-six for 72 yards, Mohamed Sanu caught only three passes for 24 on five targets. The numbers are not necessarily bad for the in-season acquisition but there is definitely room for improvement.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Shaq Mason 73 0.0 1 1
Joe Thuney 73 0.0 1 0
Isaiah Wynn 73 0.0 0 2
Ted Karras 73 0.0 0 0
Marshall Newhouse 46 0.0 0 1
Marcus Cannon 27 0.0 2 0
Jeff Howe

The Patriots’ offensive line appears to be trending in the right direction, and the pass protection is further proof of that: while the unit repeatedly performed well in run blocking since the bye week and had a strong day against Buffalo’s talented defensive front, its pass protection is especially encouraging. New England’s O-line did not allow Tom Brady to be sacked even once and surrendered just eight total pressures on 34 drop-backs for a disruption rate of 23.5%.

The team’s success in the running game certainly contributed to that, but the players up front — even though right tackle Marcus Cannon had to be replaced by Marshall Newhouse midway through the second quarter because of an ankle injury — also won their battles more often than not in obvious passing situations.

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 54 0.0 0 2 1
Patrick Chung 54 0.0 0 0 1
Jamie Collins Sr. 52 0.0 1 0 1
Dont'a Hightower 49 1.5 1 0 0
John Simon 34 1.0 0 0 0
Adam Butler 30 0.5 0 0 0
Lawrence Guy 29 1.0 1 0 1
Danny Shelton 27 0.0 0 1 0
Jeff Howe

The Patriots followed a similar game plan up front as in Week 4: diversify the pressure and challenge Josh Allen’s decision-making and reaction time. The former first-round draft pick looked good at times, but New England still won its fair share of battles: led by the outstanding Dont’a Hightower and Lawrence Guy, the team sacked the Bills’ quarterback four times and pressured him on 10 of 28 drop-backs for a rate of 35.7%. As a result, Allen and Buffalo’s offense had a hard time getting into a consistent rhythm.

Defensive rush direction

Next Gen Stats

New England struggled against the run in Week 4, but was much better in this area this time around. While the Bills still averaged 4.0 yards on 23 combined carries, they were unable to string positive run plays together and had to rely on Josh Allen to make something happen on the ground: Allen averaged 6.1 yards on his seven rushing attempts — five of which designed, two scrambles — with the defense struggling to consistently contain him.

Lead-back Devin Singletary, on the other hand, was able to gain just 46 yards on his 15 carries for an average of only 3.1 yards per run. As opposed to Frank Gore in late September, Singletary was kept in check throughout the day. Gore, meanwhile, played just two offensive snaps on Saturday and did not touch the football.

Pass rush separation

Next Gen Stats

Neither the Bills nor the Patriots were able to get too close to the opposing quarterbacks on a down-to-down basis, with two members of New England’s defense leading the way in average separation per passing rushing attempt: Adam Butler and the aforementioned Dont’a Hightower. It is therefore no surprise that the duo also worked together to register one of the biggest plays of the day when they sacked Josh Allen for a six-yard loss on third-and-nine on the game’s final drive — setting up an unfavorable and ultimately unsuccessful fourth down.

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 54 4 1 53 1 0 118.8 1
Patrick Chung 54 3 1 33 0 0 75.7 0
Kyle Van Noy 54 1 1 2 0 0 79.2 0
J.C. Jackson 52 8 4 57 0 0 73.4 2
Jamie Collins Sr. 52 1 1 12 0 0 116.7 0
John Simon 34 1 1 1 1 0 118.8 0
Joejuan Williams 29 2 1 3 0 0 56.3 0
Terrence Brooks 16 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Ja'Whaun Bentley 3 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 1
Jeff Howe

While Stephon Gilmore surrendered a 53-yard touchdown to John Brown — a play that also was made possible because of deep safety Devin McCourty playing too far up the field — the All-World cornerback played another good overall game: not one of the other three passes thrown his way were completed. Of course, sometimes one play is all that is needed to swing momentum and Brown’s touchdown certainly did that. The same, of course, goes for the 33-yard pass to Dawson Knox that Patrick Chung surrendered in the late second quarter.

The Bills certainly won their battles in the passing game, but ultimately New England’s defense came up big and helped the team come away with the victory: J.C. Jackson broke up a fourth down attempt in the end zone to essentially end the game in his team’s favor.