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Patriots vs Titans advanced stats: Inconsistent play on offense and defense dooms New England’s season

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Related: Patriots vs Titans snap counts: Pass-heavy personnel leads New England’s offense nowhere

Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ season is over and the discussion now turns to what could be a busy offseason for the team. Before turning our attention to the future, however, let’s take one final look back at the 20-13 wild card playoff defeat against the Tennessee Titans that ended the Patriots’ quest of defending the Vince Lombardi Trophy. So with that being said, let’s dig a little deeper into the advanced statistics to come out of the game and find out how it went down.

Pass distribution

NFL Next Gen Stats

With the Patriots trying to slow down Tennessee’s potent play-action game, the team had considerable opportunities to attack on the ground. In turn, Ryan Tannehill attempted only 15 passes all game of which he completed eight for a mere 72 yards — by far his lowest totals in all three categories since taking over as the Titans’ starting quarterback in Week 7. New England did a good job of shutting down the deep attack, even though Tannehill had some success underneath. All in all, though, the pass defense did its job.

The Patriots’ passing offense, on the other hand, is a different story. The numbers certainly do not paint a pretty picture for Tom Brady, but some contextualization is needed: he generally looked good and took what the defense gave him. However, his pass catchers failed him on multiple occasions and the offense as a whole just simply failed to come up with the plays when it needed to make them. Brady is not without blame, but his performance was better than what the numbers suggest, especially in the short and intermediate area.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

New England’s running game improved late in the regular season, and the game against Tennessee was more of the same: the Patriots moved the football well on the ground and behind Sony Michel as the main man gained 98 yards on 22 carries for an average of 4.5 yards per attempt. As is the case with Brady, and football in general, however, numbers only tell one part of the story and the running game cannot be properly discussed without mentioning Elandon Roberts’ failed conversion on a third-and-one in the second quarter or the three unsuccessful goal-line carries a few minutes later.

In a sense, the Patriots’ ground game therefore ended its season in a fitting way considering how the entire season went. It did generate some solid yardage and could potentially have helped New England advance past Tennessee, but inconsistencies reared their ugly head and eventually contributed to the team’s demise.

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 5 3 30 8 0 0 77.1 1
Mohamed Sanu 45 3 1 11 6 0 1 5.6 0
N'Keal Harry 41 8 2 21 3 0 0 39.6 1
James White 29 5 5 62 64 0 0 118.3 0
Benjamin Watson 27 4 3 38 6 0 0 104.2 1
Phillip Dorsett II 27 4 1 6 0 0 0 39.6 0
Sony Michel 23 2 2 9 8 0 0 85.4 0
Rex Burkhead 11 3 3 32 41 0 0 111.1 0
Pro Football Focus

All year long, the pass catching positions were a problem for the Patriots and the wild card playoffs were more of the same. Long story short, New England’s receivers simply failed to execute when they heard their numbers called — be it Julian Edelman or Benjamin Watson dropping passes, N’Keal Harry slowing down on a route that could have ended in a long completion, or the lack of separation across the board. It was simply not good enough.

Not all was bad, however. The screen game worked well with both James White and Rex Burkhead generating considerable yardage, while Benjamin Watson had one of his best games of the season as a receiver as well. Ultimately, though, it was not enough to come away victoriously against the Titans.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

While the Patriots had some issues against Tennessee’s tight ends — losing starting strong Patrick Chung on the first defensive drive of the series did not help — their pass defense generally played a good game and oftentimes forced Ryan Tannehill into contested pass attempts. The Titans, meanwhile, also covered New England’s pass catchers tightly with Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu standing out in particular: they were open only 1.91 and 2.35 yards on average when targeted by Tom Brady.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Isaiah Wynn 61 0.0 2 0
Marcus Cannon 61 0.0 1 0
Shaq Mason 61 0.0 1 0
Ted Karras 61 0.0 0 1
Joe Thuney 61 0.0 0 0
Matt LaCosse 33 0.0 1 0
Jeff Howe

Tom Brady dropped back to pass 37 times against the Titans but was disrupted only six times all day for a pressure rate of 16.2%: he was not sacked all day, hit five times and hurried only once. The pass protection, just like it did over the last few weeks of the season, looked good and did give the veteran quarterback considerable time to scan the field and go through his progressions. However, the inconsistent play at the skill positions still prevented Brady and the passing offense from getting into a rhythm.

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 62 1.0 0 0 1
Devin McCourty 62 0.0 0 1 0
Dont'a Hightower 60 0.0 2 0 2
John Simon 53 0.0 2 1 0
Lawrence Guy 49 0.0 1 0 0
Danny Shelton 48 0.0 1 0 0
Deatrich Wise Jr. 39 0.0 0 1 0
Jamie Collins Sr. 33 0.0 1 0 0
Ja'Whaun Bentley 19 0.0 0 0 1
Jeff Howe

While Tom Brady was pressured on 16.2% of his drop-backs, Ryan Tannehill was under more duress: despite dropping back to pass just 17 times all day, the Patriots defense was able to pressure him 11 times for a rate of 64.7% — a huge number that contributed to Tennessee’s struggles when it came to consistently moving the football through the air. Of course, the team did not need to do that considering how well its run offense worked. With that being said, let’s take a look at...

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

Derrick Henry, in part because the Patriots wanted to focus on taking away the Titans’ quick-strike play-action game, was able to gain 182 yards on just 34 carries for an average of 5.4 yards per attempt. He was especially productive in the first half when he had 14 attempts for 106 and an average of 7.6 yards per run — meaning the New England’s run defense improved as the game went along. Henry, however, was still able to milk down the clock and put additional pressure on the Patriots’ struggling offense.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

While the Patriots’ offensive line did a nice job of creating space in the pocket for Tom Brady, the Titans’ blockers had a hard time keeping defenders away from the team’s quarterback. One of those defenders was linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who was arguably New England’s best front-line players on Saturday and finished the game with two hits and an additional pair of run stops — all while getting close to Tannehill on a regular basis.

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
Devin McCourty 62 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Dont'a Hightower 60 2 2 4 0 0 79.2 0
J.C. Jackson 57 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 1
Stephon Gilmore 55 1 1 4 0 0 83.3 0
Duron Harmon 45 1 0 0 0 1 0.0 0
Jonathan Jones 36 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 1
Jamie Collins Sr. 33 1 1 8 0 0 100.0 0
Terrence Brooks 6 3 2 23 1 0 129.2 0
Jeff Howe

New England’s coverage players did not have a lot of work on Sunday, but they still looked mostly good when challenged. Stephon Gilmore bounced back nicely after a disappointing regular season finale and held outstanding rookie A.J. Brown to one four-yard catch, J.C. Jackson continued his outstanding sophomore campaign, and Duron Harmon had an interception to move him into third plays in franchise history in postseason picks.

Not all was perfect, however. As noted above, Patrick Chung was lost to what later turned out to be a high ankle sprain which forced the team to insert Terrence Brooks into the lineup. The first-year Patriot saw only limited action but still surrendered two catches on three targets: one turned into a touchdown, the other allowed Tennessee to convert a pivotal third down late in the fourth quarter.