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Patriots vs Chiefs snap count report: Coverage-heavy game plan helps slow down Kansas City’s offense

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 26-10 loss to Chiefs

NFL: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Would they play, or would they not? That was the main question related to the New England Patriots’ Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs following positive Coronavirus tests on both sides. The contest, however, was pushed back only one day and the two teams eventually squared off on a Monday night in a game that was decided 26-10 in the Chiefs’ favor despite a shorthanded Patriots team competing well for most of the contest.

With that being said, let’s take a look at how the Patriots opted to use their players versus Kansas City.


Total snaps: 75

OT Justin Herron (75; 100%), G Mike Onwenu (75; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (75; 100%), G Joe Thuney (75; 100%), C James Ferentz (75; 100%), WR Damiere Byrd (73; 97%), TE Ryan Izzo (64; 85%), WR N’Keal Harry (57; 76%), QB Brian Hoyer (50; 67%), WR Julian Edelman (46; 61%), RB James White (40; 53%), RB Rex Burkhead (26; 35%), QB Jarrett Stidham (25; 33%), FB Jakob Johnson (23; 31%), RB Damien Harris (23; 31%), WR Isaiah Zuber (9; 12%), TE Devin Asiasi (8; 11%), WR Gunner Olszewski (6; 8%)

With Cam Newton out following his positive Coronavirus test on late Friday night, the Patriots turned to Brian Hoyer to fill the starting quarterback gig against the Chiefs. While Hoyer had some positive moments, his mistakes were too egregious to allow him to stay in the game. And so, after 50 snaps, New England benched the veteran in favor of second-year man Jarrett Stidham who played more snaps on Monday night (25) than he did during his entire 2019 rookie season (15).

The quarterback position was not the only one to see some turnover against Kansas City. The offensive line, for example, was shuffled once again: with David Andrews still on injured reserve and both Shaq Mason and Jermaine Eluemunor incapacitated, New England turned to James Ferentz, Michael Onwenu and Justin Herron to fill the respective spots in the lineup. All three fared as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and did not leave the field all game long.

The skill position players, meanwhile, were used similarly to their roles all year long: Damiere Byrd remains the top wide receiver in terms of playing time, with N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman behind him, while Ryan Izzo is still the top tight end. Only the running back spot was shaken up a bit with Damien Harris taking over the early-down role from Sony Michel (injured reserve) and James White returning to the lineup.


Total snaps: 56

CB Jonathan Jones (56; 100%), S Devin McCourty (56; 100%), CB J.C. Jackson (56; 100%), CB Stephon Gilmore (56; 100%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (46; 82%), LB John Simon (45; 80%), S Adrian Phillips (42; 75%), LB Chase Winovich (37; 66%), DT Lawrence Guy (36; 64%), CB Jason McCourty (35; 62%), DT Adam Butler (30; 54%), LB Shilique Calhoun (28; 50%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (27; 48%), DT Byron Cowart (17; 30%), S Kyle Dugger (16; 29%), LB Anfernee Jennings (14; 25%), CB Joejuan Williams (8; 14%), S Terrence Brooks (7; 12%), LB Derek Rivers (4; 7%)

Facing possibly the most explosive passing attack in all of football, the Patriots turned to the strength of their defense to counter: the team employed a coverage-heavy personnel package at all times, with four defensive backs — Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Stephon Gilmore — not leaving the field even once. The other defensive backs saw a more rotational usage, meanwhile, with Jason McCourty as the fourth cornerback and Adrian Phillips the top safety.

What does stand out, however, is that New England’s former Round Two draft investment, Joejuan Williams was on the field for only eight snaps all day: despite the Chiefs having one of the best tight ends in the game in Travis Kelce, the second-year man was used only occasionally in one-on-one coverage against him (including on a 45-yard catch-and-run). Instead, the Patriots rotated the assignment with Kyle Dugger also seeing snaps against him.

Up front, meanwhile, the Patriots relied on a heavy dose of Ja’Whaun Bentley as their lone off-the-ball linebacker with John Simon, Chase Winovich and Shilique Calhoun seeing plenty of action on the line of scrimmage. The trio, together with the defensive tackles used depending on the package, was able to put regular pressure on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes — a positive development considering that New England tried to attack with only three or four on most snaps.

Special Teams

Total snaps: 23

WR Matthew Slater (21; 91%), CB Justin Bethel (21; 91%), LB Brandon Copeland (21; 91%), S Kyle Dugger (17; 74%), LB John Simon (15; 65%), RB Rex Burkhead (13; 57%), WR Gunner Olszewski (13; 57%), LB Shilique Calhoun (12; 52%), LB Cassh Maluia (12; 52%), FB Jakob Johnson (11; 48%), CB Joejuan Williams (11; 48%), S Terrence Brooks (10; 43%), CB Jonathan Jones (8; 35%), S Adrian Phillips (8; 35%), DT Lawrence Guy (8; 35%), P Jake Bailey (8; 35%), DT Byron Cowart (6; 26%), S Devin McCourty (5; 22%), DE Derek Rivers (5; 22%), LS Joe Cardona (5; 22%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (4; 17%), LB Chase Winovich (3; 13%), OT Justin Herron (2; 9%), G Michael Onwenu (2; 9%), OT Isaiah Wynn (2; 9%), G Joe Thuney (2; 9%), C James Ferentz (2; 9%), K Nick Folk (2; 9%), G Hjalte Froholdt (2; 9%), CB Jason McCourty (1; 4%)

After using a season-high 35 different players in the kicking game last week, the Patriots employed “only” 30 versus the Chiefs. Of those, eight were used exclusively in the kicking game: the three specialists — Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Nick Folk — as well as Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Brandon Copeland, Cassh Maluia and Hjalte Froholdt. New England also used a heavy dose of second-round rookie Kyle Dugger in the game’s third phase, though.

Did not play

RB J.J. Taylor, OT Jermaine Eluemunor, OT Korey Cunningham

Even though the Patriots used both active quarterbacks for the first time all season, they still had three players who did not see the field even once. The most prominent of the three men is starting right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor, who had to sit out the contest because of a migraine he apparently suffered shortly before kickoff.


CB Myles Bryant, TE Dalton Keene, G Shaq Mason, WR Jakobi Meyers

New England had to deactivate only four players heading into the game, with one notable name on the list: Shaq Mason, the Patriots’ starting right guard, had to sit out the contest because of a calf injury that limited him in practice all week long. While Michael Onwenu did an impressive job filling in, getting the veteran back should only help New England’s offensive operation in the long run.

The other inactives, meanwhile, were all healthy scratches.