The New England Patriots’ 2019 season is in the books and it ended in disappointment: the reigning world champions failed to make enough place to prevent the visiting Tennessee Titans from winning the two teams’ wild card matchup with a final score of 20-13. There will be plenty of time and opportunity to analyze the game and season as a whole, but for now let’s just focus on how New England used its personnel on Saturday night.
Total snaps: 61
OT Marcus Cannon (61; 100%), OG Joe Thuney (61; 100%), OG Shaq Mason (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 (45; 74%), WR N’Keal Harry (41; 67%), TE Matt LaCosse (33; 54%), RB James White (29; 48%), WR Phillip Dorsett II (27; 44%), TE Benjamin Watson (27; 44%), RB Sony Michel (23; 38%), LB Elandon Roberts (12; 20%), RB Rex Burkhead (11; 18%), OT Marshall Newhouse (3; 5%)
Even though the Patriots found some success on the ground and finished the game with 98 rushing yards on 22 carries, their personnel usage reflects a different reality: the team wanted to throw the football. The team’s top-four wide receivers and receiving back James White all saw more snaps than early-down runner Sony Michel and fullback Elandon Roberts, which shows how New England relied on the passing game to get the job done against Tennessee. Obviously, it could not do it.
Two more things stand out when looking at the snap counts:
- Running back Rex Burkhead played only 11 snaps even though he looked good as a pass catcher in the screen game and finished the game with three receptions for 32 yards. His three carries, however, went only for a combined four yards.
- If starting left guard Joe Thuney leaves the Patriots via unrestricted free agency, he will end his tenure with the club in perfect fashion: by playing 100% of offensive snaps. Ever since joining the team as a third-round draft choice in 2016, Thuney has been an iron man along the offensive line.
Total snaps: 62
FS Devin McCourty (62; 100%), LB Kyle Van Noy (62; 100%), LB Dont’a Hightower (60; 97%), CB J.C. Jackson (57; 92%), CB Stephon Gilmore (55; 89%), LB John Simon (53; 85%), DT Lawrence Guy (49; 79%), DT Danny Shelton (48; 77%), FS Duron Harmon (45; 73%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (39; 63%), CB Jonathan Jones (36; 58%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (33; 53%), DT Adam Butler (19; 31%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (19; 31%), LB Elandon Roberts (17; 27%), SS Patrick Chung (13; 21%), SS Terrence Brooks (6; 10%), CB Joejuan Williams (5; 8%), LB Chase Winovich (2; 3%), LB Shilique Calhoun (2; 3%)
While the Patriots’ offensive personnel usage shows a heavy focus on the passing game, the defense tells a different story as New England tried to take away the big play potential by not compromising the run defense. As a result, defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton saw a heavy workload, with big-bodied John Simon and Deatrich Wise Jr. also playing considerable snaps to keep up the integrity of the run defense. The plan worked inconsistently, to say the least.
From a front-seven perspective, the Patriots did not do anything surprising when it comes to personnel: linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower were core guys behind Guy and Shelton, with the third linebacker spot being used more rotationally between Jamie Collins and run-first defenders Ja’Whaun Bentley and Elandon Roberts — the latter of which again playing a rotational role on offense as well.
In the secondary, meanwhile, New England was forced to replace starting strong safety Patrick Chung just 13 snaps into the game. Terrence Brooks was inserted into the lineup, but after promptly giving up a touchdown played only five more snaps along the way.
Total snaps: 27
RB Brandon Bolden (24; 89%), SS Nate Ebner (24; 89%), WR Matthew Slater (21; 78%), CB Justin Bethel (20; 74%), RB Rex Burkhead (22; 81%), LB Chase Winovich (17; 63%), CB Joejuan Williams (12; 44%), P Jake Bailey (12; 44%), DT Adam Butler (11; 41%), WR Mohamed Sanu (9; 33%), CB J.C. Jackson (9; 33%), DT Lawrence Guy (9; 33%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (9; 33%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (9; 33%), LS Joe Cardona (8; 30%), FS Devin McCourty (7; 26%), LB Dont’a Hightower (7; 26%), TE Matt LaCosse (5; 19%), LB Elandon Roberts (5; 19%), LB Kyle Van Noy (5; 19%), CB Stephon Gilmore (5; 19%), FS Duron Harmon (5; 19%), RB James White (4; 15%), RB Sony Michel (4; 15%), LB John Simon (4; 15%), OT Marcus Cannon (3; 11%), OG Joe Thuney (3; 11%), OG Shaq Mason (3; 11%), OC Ted Karras (3; 11%), OT Marshall Newhouse (3; 11%), K Nick Folk (3; 11%), OG James Ferentz (3; 11%), WR Julian Edelman (2; 7%), DT Danny Shelton (2; 7%), WR Phillip Dorsett II (1; 4%), SS Patrick Chung (1; 4%), SS Terrence Brooks (1; 4%), LB Shilique Calhoun (1; 4%)
The Patriots used a considerable portion of their 46-man game day roster on special teams. Only six of the players seeing the field during the game did not play in the kicking game: quarterback Tom Brady, left tackle Isaiah Wynn, wide receiver N’Keal Harry, tight end Benjamin Watson, defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. and — not really surprising given his recent groin injury — former core special teamer Jonathan Jones.
On the other hand, eight men played exclusively on special teams. One name that stand out among the third group, meanwhile which is players that played in two (or in Elandon Roberts’ case, three) phases of the game: All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore was used in the kicking game for five snaps, his first kicking game action since last year’s Week 6 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham, WR Jakobi Meyers
With the Patriots’ game against the Titans 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 was on the 46-man game day roster for all 16 of the team’s regular games, but ends the season with only three in-game appearances and a combined 15 offensive snaps. Jakobi Meyers, meanwhile, was unable to get onto the field again despite New England’s offensive struggles. While a lot can change over the next few months, this does not appear to necessarily bode well for his long-term outlook.
CB Jason McCourty, QB Cody Kessler, RB Damien Harris, TE Ryan Izzo, OL Jermaine Eluemunor, OT Korey Cunningham, DT Byron Cowart
The Patriots entered the weekend with six players listed as questionable on their injury report but only one of them was eventually declared inactive on game day: cornerback Jason McCourty, who was limited in practice all week due to a groin injury that first popped up in mid-November, missed his fifth game of the season due to the ailment. The rest of New England’s inactives, meanwhile, were little more than depth players for most of the season.