The New England Patriots failed to lock up a first-round playoff bye against the Miami Dolphins by playing an inconsistent game from start to finish — one that saw a rotation at numerous positions across the board. With that being said let’s dig a little deeper into the snap count numbers to get an impression of how the Patriots used their players during the regular season finale.
Total snaps: 61
OG Shaq Mason (61; 100%), OT Marcus Cannon (61; 100%), OG Joe Thuney (61; 100%), OC Ted Karras (61; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (61; 100%), QB Tom Brady (61; 100%), WR Julian Edelman (54; 89%), WR Mohamed Sanu (50; 82%), TE Benjamin Watson (40; 66%), TE Matt LaCosse (38; 62%), WR N’Keal Harry (34; 56%), RB Sony Michel (26; 43%), RB James White (22; 36%), RB Rex Burkhead (13; 21%), WR Phillip Dorsett II (13; 21%), LB Elandon Roberts (8; 13%), WR Jakobi Meyers (7; 11%)
The Patriots’ offensive line has not exactly been blessed with stability this season, which makes Sunday’s game an outlier: for the first time all year, the starting unit went wire-to-wire as tackles Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon, guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason, and center Ted Karras did not leave the field even once — joining quarterback Tom Brady as the only players in New England’s offense to play all 61 snaps against Miami.
Elsewhere, the Patriots used a rotational approach at wide receiver with Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu as the top-two and N’Keal Harry and Phillip Dorsett behind them. The tight end and running back positions, meanwhile, were used like they were most of the season: depending on the situation and with no player as a clear number one option.
Total snaps: 68
CB J.C. Jackson (68; 100%), SS Patrick Chung (68; 100%), CB Stephon Gilmore (68; 100%), FS Devin McCourty (67; 99%), LB Kyle Van Noy (67; 99%), LB Dont’a Hightower (66; 97%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (55; 81%), FS Duron Harmon (46; 68%), LB John Simon (35; 51%), DT Adam Butler (34; 50%), CB Jonathan Jones (33; 49%), DT Lawrence Guy (32; 47%), DT Danny Shelton (32; 47%), LB Chase Winovich (20; 29%), CB Joejuan Williams (15; 22%), LB Shilique Calhoun (14; 21%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (13; 19%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (8; 12%), LB Elandon Roberts (7; 10%)
New England’s defensive usage looked essentially unchanged when compared to weeks past: the defensive backfield — with the exception of Devin McCourty — played all 68 snaps, while the linebackers also saw considerable action. The most notable movement came at the fifth defensive back spot: Duron Harmon played 68% of snaps in that role, with Jonathan Jones (49%) and second-round rookie Joejuan Williams (22%) also subbing in. Williams’ workload in particular is encouraging.
Elsewhere, the Patriots did not do anything surprising: the defensive tackles played a high number of snaps with the edge defenders and traditional off-the-ball linebackers being used in a role-specific way depending on the situation.
Total snaps: 29
CB Justin Bethel (25; 86%), SS Nate Ebner (25; 86%), RB Brandon Bolden (23; 79%), RB Rex Burkhead (20; 69%), WR Matthew Slater (20; 69%), LB Chase Winovich (18; 62%), LB John Simon (16; 55%), CB Joejuan Williams (14; 48%), P Jake Bailey (13; 45%), DT Lawrence Guy (11; 38%), FS Devin McCourty (10; 34%), DT Adam Butler (10; 34%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (10; 34%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (9; 31%), LS Joe Cardona (8; 28%), LB Dont’a Hightower (7; 24%), RB Sony Michel (6; 21%), RB James White (6; 21%), WR Mohamed Sanu (5; 17%), LB Elandon Roberts (5; 17%), CB J.C. Jackson (5; 17%), FS Duron Harmon (5; 17%), DT Danny Shelton (5; 17%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (5; 17%), OG Shaq Mason (4; 14%), OT Marcus Cannon (4; 14%), OG Joe Thuney (4; 14%), OC Ted Karras (4; 14%), LB Kyle Van Noy (4; 14%), OG James Ferentz (4; 14%), OT Marshall Newhouse (4; 14%), K Nick Folk (4; 14%), WR N’Keal Harry (3; 10%), SS Patrick Chung (3; 10%)
34 members of New England’s 46-man game day roster saw playing time in the kicking game, with nine of them exclusively being used on special teams — including the units’ top-four: Justin Bethel, Nate Ebner, Brandon Bolden and Matthew Slater. All in all, however, there were no surprises when it comes to how the Patriots used their players in the game’s third phase both in terms of player usage and performance.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham, OT Korey Cunningham
With the Patriots’ game against the Dolphins a close affair through four quarters, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham had to stay on the bench throughout the contest once more. The fourth-round rookie has been on the 46-man game day roster for all 16 of the team’s regular games, but has seen the field just three times for a combined 15 offensive snaps. Meanwhile, depth offensive tackle Korey Cunningham also spent the day on the sidelines despite being activated for the first time since Week 2.
CB Jason McCourty, SS Terrence Brooks, DT Byron Cowart, TE Ryan Izzo, OG Jermaine Eluemunor, QB Cody Kessler, RB Damien Harris
The Patriots entered the weekend with nine players listed as questionable on their injury report, but only two of them were declared inactive for the game against Miami. Cornerback Jason McCourty, who has been on the field for just eight snaps over the last six weeks, missed his fourth game of the season because of a lingering groin injury. Number four safety Terrence Brooks, meanwhile, was out the first time all season after popping up on the injury report because of a groin issue as well.