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Patriots vs Texans advanced stats: New England’s pass defense shows some weaknesses for the first time this season

Related: Patriots vs Texans snap counts: New England was not at full strength against Houston

NFL: DEC 01 Patriots at Texans Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots went on a late rally against the Houston Texans on Sunday night, but it was too little to late: the team lost with a final score of 28-22, to fall to 10-2 on the year and from the top playoff seed in the AFC. 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

While it is easy to look at the Patriots’ lack of offensive production against Houston and point to Tom Brady, the veteran quarterback actually had a quite solid overall game: he tried to spread the football around well and targeted most areas of the field. However, frequent miscommunications with his pass catchers and flawed execution throughout the board — including his interception intended for wide receiver N’Keal Harry — limited his effectiveness for most of the game.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, had a rather strong day passing the football against New England’s top-ranked defense. While the former first-round draft pick primarily targeted the short and intermediate areas of the field, he successfully moved the ball down the field through the air — becoming the first quarterback this season to throw for three touchdowns against the Patriots, with two of which coming on third down.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

For the second straight week, the Patriots found some success on the ground. While Sony Michel served as the primary back early on and finished with 45 yards on 10 carries, James White actually was the team’s most productive back in part because of a career-long 32-yard run in the third quarter. White, who found particular success running to the right side of the formation, carried the football 14 times for a combined 79 yards.

What stands out when looking at the Patriots’ offensive rush direction is that the team did not attempt to challenge the left-side boundary outside tackle Isaiah Wynn. This is especially noteworthy considering that Michel averaged 4.9 yards per carry in this direction the previous week against the Dallas Cowboys. New England clearly felt that attacking the middle of Houston’s defensive line was the way to go, and in all fairness the numbers proved them right to a certain extent.

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 80 10 6 106 30 1 0 129.6 0
James White 68 9 8 98 65 2 0 151.6 0
Phillip Dorsett 62 6 2 15 0 0 0 42.4 0
Jakobi Meyers 61 7 3 46 5 0 0 65.2 0
Matt LaCosse 53 2 1 24 7 0 0 93.8 1
Benjamin Watson 47 1 1 23 17 0 0 118.8 0
N'Keal Harry 22 1 0 0 0 0 1 0.0 0
Mohamed Sanu 19 5 3 14 1 0 0 64.6 1
Rex Burkhead 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Pro Football Focus

As noted above, Tom Brady tried to spread the football around but oftentimes was unable to connect with his intended targets — be it due to miscommunication (Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers), drops (Mohamed Sanu on fourth down) or simply some good coverage by the Texans that focused on Julian Edelman and James White. Unsurprisingly, the latter two finished the game as New England’s in most receiving categories and the most reliable offensive weapons.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

Tom Brady threw some highly contested passes on Sunday, with three of his wide receivers — Mohamed Sanu (1.89 yards), Phillip Dorsett (2.27 yards), Jakobi Meyers (2.60 yards) — gaining fewer than three yards of separation whenever targeted. Julian Edelman, on the other hand, was comparatively open on an average snap as he did find some success against Houston’s defense on crossing patterns.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Isaiah Wynn 87 1.0 2 1
Shaq Mason 87 0.5 0 0
Joe Thuney 87 0.0 5 2
Marcus Cannon 82 1.5 3 0
James Ferentz 44 0.0 0 3
Ted Karras 43 0.0 0 0
Marshall Newhouse 5 0.0 0 0
Jeff Howe

New England’s offensive line saw some more turnover on Sunday. Not only did right tackle Marcus Cannon, who had a rough outing against the Texans’ pass rush, miss five snaps because of an IV received at the start of the third quarter, the team also lost starting center Ted Karras to what later turned out to be a sprained MCL. Karras had actually played a solid game before leaving the field in quarter number three and being replaced by James Ferentz, who surrendered three quarterback hurries on his 44 offensive snaps.

The rest of the Patriots’ O-line was inconsistent. While Shaq Mason looked mostly good after a bad performance in Week 12, Isaiah Wynn and Joe Thuney had their fair share of ups-and-downs: the left side of New England’s line combined to surrender 11 of the team’s 19 quarterback disruptions. All in all, Tom Brady was either sacked, hit or hurried on 38.0% of his drop-backs on Sunday.

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 50 1.0 0 2 0
Kyle Van Noy 40 1.0 0 1 0
Danny Shelton 36 0.0 0 1 0
Lawrence Guy 36 0.0 0 0 3
John Simon 34 0.0 1 0 1
Chase Winovich 22 1.0 0 0 0
Adam Butler 20 0.0 0 1 0
Ja'Whaun Bentley 19 0.0 0 1 0
Terrence Brooks 5 0.0 1 0 0
Jeff Howe

Deshaun Watson dropped back 28 times against the Patriots’ defense, and was disrupted on 11 of those plays for a rate of 39.3% — roughly the same as Tom Brady. However, Watson was able to maneuver around the pocket well and evade pressure if need be even though he was sacked three times. His elusiveness was on display in the early second quarter, when he escaped what would have been a 15-yard sack by John Simon to eventually throw incomplete. Later during the same series, Houston would score a touchdown to go up 14-3.

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

Before the game, Texans running back Carlos Hyde spoke about his team’s willingness to invest in the run game to slow the contest against New England down. However, that plan did not prove to be a successful one as Hyde averaged only 1.7 yards per carry against a stout Patriots front led by defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton. Versatile Duke Johnson, who caught five passes for 54 yards and a score on top of his nine carries for 36 yards, found more success versus the New England defense.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

Fifth-round rookie Charles Omenihu did not register a sack while rushing from numerous positions along the Texans’ defensive line, but he consistently was able to find his way into the backfield towards Tom Brady — something that also holds true for his teammates, with linebacker Jacob Martin in particular standing out: the offseason trade acquisition registered 1.5 sacks against Marcus Cannon.

On the other side, the Patriots saw some solid contributions by Chase Winovich and Kyle Van Noy in the pass-rushing department. The two linebackers finished with a sack each, and came closest to Watson on a down-to-down comparison.

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 56 3 2 23 0 0 89.6 0
J.C. Jackson 56 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Devin McCourty 56 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Patrick Chung 54 3 2 27 0 0 95.1 0
Dont'a Hightower 50 2 1 8 0 0 100.0 0
Kyle Van Noy 40 1 1 14 1 0 158.3 0
Jonathan Jones 32 5 3 61 1 0 142.5 2
Jamie Collins Sr. 31 1 1 13 1 0 158.3 0
Ja'Whaun Bentley 19 1 1 10 0 0 108.3 0
Jeff Howe

For the first time all season, the Patriots’ pass defense showed some weaknesses and it was in large part due to the presence of DeAndre Hopkins. The Patriots used their number one cornerback — Stephon Gilmore — on him, but oftentimes had help over the top. This, in turn, created one-on-one matchups elsewhere and Houston was able to take advantage especially versus the linebackers and slot cornerback Jonathan Jones.

Of course, the Texans do have one of the most talented receiving corps in football so this outing should not necessarily be seen as a sign of impending collapse. However, for this one Sunday the opponent was able to win its fair share of battles against the best secondary in football.