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2019 Super Bowl: Advanced stats show how outstanding the Patriots’ defense really was against the Rams

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Let’s dig into the advanced stats from the Super Bowl.

NFL: Super Bowl LIII-New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots have won their sixth Super Bowl thanks to a defensive effort for the ages as well as an offense that made the play when they were needed the most. The 13-3 game might not have been the most exciting of affairs for those NFL fans that got used to high-scoring affairs dominated by offensive play, but it was still a thrilling title game between two of the best defense’s the league has to offer.

With that being said, let’s dig a little deeper into New England’s victory on the game’s biggest stage and take a look at it through the lens that is the advanced stats:

Pass distribution

NFL Next Gen Stats

Tom Brady might not have had the best statistical game in the Super Bowl, but he made mostly solid decisions after his first pass attempted was picked off to end the Patriots’ first drive. Brady generally attacked the underneath areas, with game MVP Julian Edelman as his primary target. The one time the six-time champion did go deep, he hit Rob Gronkowski for a 29-yard gain to set up a goal-to-go situation from the Los Angeles Rams’ 2-yard line. Brady was not outstanding but he was efficient and did what he had to do against a talented defense.

The Patriots defense, meanwhile, took away the Rams’ deep passing game: Jared Goff attempted five passes — among them Stephon Gilmore’s interception in the fourth quarter — over 20 air yards but not one of them was completed. Goff, like Brady, did his most damage attacking the underneath areas but New England’s defense was generally prepared and held the quarterback to under a completion rate of under 50%.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

New England finished the day with 156 rushing yards on 30 non-kneel down attempts, and Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead carried the majority of the load. The two were generally efficient but a bit inconsistent. The Rams defense did a solid job against the run from the second series on, but the two backs were able to pick up considerable yardage late in the game — especially on the game-sealing field goal drive in the fourth quarter that covered 72 yards in nine plays, all of which runs.

While Michel — the scorer of the Super Bowl’s lone touchdown — gained most of his yardage to the right side of the line, Burkhead found more success on off-tackle runs to the left. All in all, their day looked similar to Brady’s: they were not the dominating force they had been previously in the playoffs but given the circumstances and outstanding defense they faced, it was a good outing nevertheless.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

The Patriots’ pass catchers were generally able to create above-average separation when targeted by Brady, with Julian Edelman in particular able to run free against a Rams defense that generally preferred to play zone coverage on the early downs before switching to man in select situations: as his quarterback’s preferred target, the game’s MVP finished the day with 10 receptions on 12 targets for 141 yards.

New England’s other starting receiver was a bit more inconsistent, with Chris Hogan who being generally unable to win his one-on-ones and finishing with no catches on six targets. Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski had another solid performance as a pass receiver and ended the day with six catches on seven targets for 87 yards. Patterson, meanwhile, caught both passes thrown to him for 14 total yards.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Joe Thuney 72 1.0 0 0
David Andrews 72 0.0 1 0
Shaq Mason 72 0.0 0 1
Trent Brown 72 0.0 0 1
Marcus Cannon 72 0.0 0 0
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Headed by Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, the Rams have one of the NFL’s best defensive lines — and the Patriots were generally able to keep them in check. Brady was sacked just once all game long when John Franklin-Myers was able to get around an otherwise solid Joe Thuney to take down Brady for the first time all postseason. But other than that, both the starting left guard and his four compañeros were solid in pass protection all day long.

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 65 1.0 3 0 1
Jonathan Jones 64 1.0 0 0 0
Trey Flowers 61 0.0 3 3 1
Dont'a Hightower 56 2.0 1 1 0
Lawrence Guy 36 0.0 2 0 0
Deatrich Wise Jr. 31 0.0 1 1 0
Duron Harmon 27 0.0 0 1 0
Adrian Clayborn 26 0.0 1 0 0
Danny Shelton 15 0.0 0 0 1
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Jared Goff dropped back to pass 42 times and the Patriots were able to pressure him on 21 of the plays: led by Dont’a Hightower’s two sacks, the Rams quarterback was taken down four times in total, hit on eleven occasions, and pressured on six more. New England was outstanding in the trenches by running multiple stunts, blitzes and defensive motion plays to confuse both the quarterback and the blockers in front of him. The plan worked perfectly and did not allow the L.A. offense to get into any rhythm all day long.

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

Los Angeles attempted 18 rushes on the day and as the Patriots pretty much shut down the team’s otherwise potent ground game from start to finish. All in all, the Rams were able to gain just 62 yards on the ground, with Todd Gurley doing the most damage — but still not a lot of it. New England played a disciplined game by attacking vertically and just like in the passing game dominating at the line of scrimmage. L.A. was never able to establish a presence on the ground and it cost the team.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

The discrepancy when it comes to the performance in the trenches can also be seen when looking at the pass rush separation on both sides of the ball. While the Patriots — led by Adrian Clayborn and the excellently playing Hightower — came relatively close to Goff, the Rams’ defenders were on average farther away from Brady. All in all, the Patriots’ quarterback was pressured on just four of his 36 drop-backs which is a continuation of New England’s standout pass blocking all throughout the postseason.

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 65 6 2 31 0 1 35.4 1
Jason McCourty 65 5 2 18 0 0 50.4 2
Devin McCourty 65 2 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Kyle Van Noy 65 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Jonathan Jones 64 7 4 60 0 0 85.4 0
Dont'a Hightower 56 2 1 9 0 0 62.5 1
J.C. Jackson 29 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Patrick Chung 26 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 1
Albert McClellan 1 1 1 -1 0 0 79.6 0
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Despite facing one of the league’s premier passing offenses, New England’s coverage defenders were outstanding all day. No matter which defender Jared Goff was targeting, he never found consistent success. The best of the bunch might again have been All-Pro Stephon Gilmore, arguably the NFL’s best cornerback: Goff threw in his direction six times but only completed two passes for 31 yards — all while Gilmore registered a huge interception in the fourth quarter.

Gilmore is not the only player to come up big as New England’s secondary played a phenomenal game from start to finish, even after losing starting strong safety Patrick Chung due to injury early in the third quarter. The Patriots’ secondary was solid for most of the year and still able to step up its game when the pressure was the highest.