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Patriots vs Dolphins advanced stats: New England’s secondary plays its worst game of the season

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Related: Patriots vs Dolphins snap counts: Starting O-line goes wire-to-wire for first time all season

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Coming off one of their best games of the season, the New England Patriots played arguably their worst: the team never got into a consistent rhythm on offense and defense and ultimately fell to the Miami Dolphins with a final score of 27-24 — costing the team not just its 13th win of the season but also a first-round bye in the playoffs. With that being said, let’s dig a little deeper into the advanced statistics to find out how the game went.

Pass distribution

NFL Next Gen Stats

Despite being an erratic passer at times, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good game against the Patriots defense: he did not turn the football over after throwing three interceptions the last time he went up against the unit, and targeted most areas on the field well — with the short middle standing out: 36.6% of his pass attempts were thrown there and he completed 12 of 15 attempts for 96 yards. Fitzpatrick took what the defense gave him and showed trust in his top weapons, which allowed him to lead his team to a victory.

Tom Brady’s stats look solid but the greatest quarterback to ever play the game had another up-and-down performance. While he had some good throws in the short area and completed an impressive deep pass to Phillip Dorsett to set up the team’s first touchdown of the day, he also struggled with his accuracy especially in the first half: the pick-six was a bad throw, while he completed only five of 16 attempts that traveled more than 10 yards down the field. Brady was not the only issue, but his slow start surely did not help.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

If New England can take away one positive from Sunday’s loss it is another solid performance from the ground game. Led by Sony Michel’s 74 yards on 18 carries, the Patriots ran 27 times for a combined 135 yards and an average of 5.0 yards per attempt. No matter which gap they attacked, the Patriots’ backs were generally able to generate positive yards while usually also running hard after contact.

It the team wants to make any noise in the postseason, the running game needs more positive performances like the ones it had over the last three weeks.

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 54 6 3 26 -9 0 0 61.8 0
Mohamed Sanu 50 5 3 35 13 0 0 81.3 1
Benjamin Watson 40 1 1 4 1 0 0 83.3 0
N'Keal Harry 34 7 3 29 7 0 0 55.1 0
Sony Michel 26 1 0 0 0 0 1 0.0 0
James White 22 3 3 33 28 1 0 152.1 0
Phillip Dorsett II 13 4 1 50 11 0 0 79.2 0
Rex Burkhead 13 1 1 6 2 0 0 91.7 0
Elandon Roberts 8 1 1 38 31 1 0 158.3 0
Pro Football Focus

While Brady was off-target numerous times on Sunday, his receiving corps did not necessarily help him much either. Be it not getting open consistently or failing to come away with contested catches, the skill position players once more were not up to the challenge enough for the Patriots to generate consistent offensive momentum — despite James White, Mohamed Sanu and even Elandon Roberts (!) having solid albeit unspectacular outings as pass catchers.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

Neither the Patriots’ nor the Dolphins’ wide receivers and tight ends were able to get all that much separation upon their targets, but the main difference in the game was that it did not impact Miami as much as it impacted New England: led by an outstanding DeVante Parker, the Dolphins’ pass catchers finished with 340 receiving yards compared to the Patriots’ 221. While Tom Brady gave his receivers numerous chances to make plays against tight coverage, they oftentimes failed to repay his trust.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Marcus Cannon 61 1.0 0 1
Ted Karras 61 0.0 1 1
Isaiah Wynn 61 0.0 1 0
Joe Thuney 61 0.0 0 1
Shaq Mason 61 0.0 0 0
Jeff Howe

Coming off a strong performance against the Buffalo Bills’ talented front, New England’s offensive line had another good outing versus Miami. While Marcus Cannon surrendered a four-yard sack in the early fourth quarter, the pass protection and run blocking both looked solid throughout the contest — the Patriots simply could not take much advantage of it, especially in the passing game. Nevertheless, the O-line continues to trend in the right direction.

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 67 0.0 3 3 0
Kyle Van Noy 67 0.0 0 4 0
Jamie Collins Sr. 55 1.0 2 0 1
John Simon 35 0.0 2 0 1
Adam Butler 34 0.0 0 2 0
Lawrence Guy 32 1.0 0 1 0
Chase Winovich 20 0.0 0 4 0
Shilique Calhoun 14 0.0 0 2 0
Deatrich Wise Jr. 13 0.0 1 2 1
Jeff Howe

Even though it finished the game with just two sacks, the Patriots defense looked good rushing the passer: it pressured Ryan Fitzpatrick on 28 of his 48 drop-backs for a disruption rate of 58.3% — a very good number, even though the Dolphins’ offensive line was an obvious weakness for the team all year long. However, New England failed to take advantage of a solid performance up front by struggling to contain the team’s pass catchers and to a lesser extent Fitzpatrick’s scrambling attempts. Speaking of which:

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins’ leading rusher in 2019, finished the game with five scrambles for 15 yards and a touchdown — making him one of the team’s most prolific runners against the Patriots. After all, New England was able to defend the run well and allowed only 63 rushing yards on 22 attempts for an average of just 2.9 yards per run. From start to finish, the Patriots controlled the line of scrimmage in the running game.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

The league-average for separation per pass rushing attempt is 4.5 yards, and the Patriots had numerous rushers below that number against Miami: led by Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who finished the game with a team-high six quarterback disruptions, New England repeatedly made life hard for Fitzpatrick. However, the veteran passer was still able to make his fair share of positive plays in large part because the Patriots’ secondary played arguably its worst game of the season.

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 68 9 7 119 0 0 118.8 1
J.C. Jackson 68 7 5 32 0 0 80.7 0
Patrick Chung 68 7 4 34 1 0 109.5 1
Devin McCourty 67 3 1 8 0 0 42.4 0
Kyle Van Noy 67 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Duron Harmon 46 2 1 5 0 0 56.3 1
Adam Butler 34 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Jonathan Jones 33 5 5 61 0 0 117.5 0
Joejuan Williams 15 2 1 9 0 0 62.5 0
Shilique Calhoun 14 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Jeff Howe

Stephon Gilmore is still one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, if not the best altogether, but DeVante Parker clearly won the battle between the two: the Dolphins’ talented number one receiver, who was held without a catch on seven targets in the first meeting between the two clubs, beat Gilmore seven times for a combined 119 yards — statistically speaking the worst game the All-Pro defender had in the three seasons since joining New England.

Gilmore was far from the only problem in the defensive backfield, however. J.C. Jackson surrendered five catches on seven targets, while Jonathan Jones was repeatedly beaten in the slot. Finally, Patrick Chung surrendered the game-winning touchdown with under 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter — one of four catches given up by the veteran. All in all, the Patriots’ starting secondary picked a bad time to play its worst game of the season.