The New England Patriots have started their 2019 regular season in style: after unveiling their sixth Super Bowl banner, the reigning champions blew out the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers with a final score of 33-3. New England dominated from start to finish, and looked terrific in all three phases of the game. With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into the game and analyze some of the advanced statistics to come out of it.
Despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line — more on that later — Tom Brady was outstanding against the Dolphins. With the exception of the short left are of the field, where he completed just three of eight pass attempts, he was near-perfect wherever he went. All in all, Brady finished the day by completing 20 of his 28 passing attempts for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also used multiple weapons by targeting seven different players.
Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, had a tough time against New England’s marvelous pass defense. Before getting pulled in favor of second-year passer Josh Rosen midway through the fourth quarter — after having thrown his second pick-six and third interception overall — the veteran struggled mightily. No matter if he was going deep or short, the Patriots were on top at all times.
Offensive rush direction
After having a tough time in Week 1 when it came to moving the football on the ground, the Patriots looked much improved against the Dolphins. Led by Sony Michel, who gained 4.0 yards per attempt and also scored a touchdown, the unit certainly complemented the passing attack well. While not all was perfect — James White’s output on the ground was minimal, Michel lost a fumble — the game was a step in the right direction for New England’s ground game.
Despite the final score, the Dolphins’ secondary actually covered the Patriots’ receivers tightly all day long. Newly signed Antonio Brown experienced this more than any other player, as his average separation per target was just 2.09 yards. He still made his targets count, however, at least in the first half: Brady went to the veteran four times, completing all four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, however, the duo failed to hook up on four more attempts.
Miami’s pass catchers experienced similarly tight coverage, with one name standing out: DeVante Parker was essentially erased from the game by whoever was on him (mostly Stephon Gilmore): clearly a defensive priority for the Patriots, he was targeted seven times but did not register even a single catch. His 1.12 average yards of separation on his targets are a reason for that. New England was not going to let the Dolphins’ best receiver have any impact on the game whatsoever.
Pass protection statistics
Just 12 snaps into the game, the Patriots’ offensive line — one that was already missing right tackle Marcus Cannon because of a shoulder injury — suffered a major blow when it lost left tackle Isaiah Wynn because of a toe issue. The line as a whole still looked solid even with backups Marshall Newhouse and Korey Cunningham on the field. While Newhouse was inconsistent on the right and later the left side of the line, the unit did not doom New England’s offensive attack thanks in part to a solid performance from the interior.
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||41||0.0||0||3||0|
|Jamie Collins Sr.||36||0.5||0||0||1|
The Dolphins field one of the worst offensive lines in all of football, so the pass rushing statistics need to be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, the Patriots did what championship teams are supposed to do against weaker competition: they dominated from start to finish. Led by Adam Butler’s career performance, the unit simply overpowered Miami’s O-line in the passing game and also stood out against the run. It was a massacre that ended with seven sacks against Fitzpatrick (four) and Rosen (three).
Defensive rush direction
Miami attempted 15 runs on the day, but was able to average just 2.8 yards per carry with the longest rush of the day covering only nine yards. As noted above, the Patriots’ front line dominated at the point of attack, which in turn shut down its opponent’s ground game: no matter who the Dolphins had in the game, New England held them in check which allowed the team to control time of possession and the overall tempo throughout the contest.
Pass rush separation
Even though the Patriots registered seven sacks, their pass rushers did not come particularly close to Miami’s quarterbacks on the average attempt. One name still stands out, tough: for the second straight week, Michael Bennett was the team’s most disruptive pass rusher as he consistently moved the pocket from wherever he lined up. While Bennett was used in only a rotational role, he made the most out of his action.
Miami’s pass rushers, on the other hand, got closer to Tom Brady. The quarterback’s lightning fast release and outstanding ability to maneuver around in the pocket, however, did allow him to evade pressure for most of the day. Brady was sacked twice, yes, but he never was thrown off his rhythm and continued to dissect the Dolphins’ secondary.
Pass coverage statistics
|Jamie Collins Sr.||36||3||1||6||0||2||2.8||0|
As noted above, the Patriots’ coverage players delivered a standout performance against an opponent that did not find any answers: while the four interceptions stand out, the NFL’s best secondary also covered tightly throughout the contest — with All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore as the best example: he was targeted five times but did not allow even a single reception while also registering an interception that was returned 54 yards for a touchdown. Gilmore and company dominated all day long.