The New England Patriots are back in the win column thanks to a hard-fought, last-second win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12. Before a game-deciding field goal as time expired secured the Patriots their fifth “W” of the season, the team did not always shine but it nevertheless saw some major contributions in all three phases — playing some solid complementary football at times to set the stage for a 20-17 walk-off victory.
With all that said, let’s take a look back at the contest to see how New England opted to use the talent on its roster and who played the biggest roles on Sunday.
Total snaps: 53
G Joe Thuney (53; 100%), G Shaq Mason (53; 100%), OT Michael Onwenu (53; 100%), C David Andrews (53; 100%), QB Cam Newton (53; 100%), TE Ryan Izzo (51; 96%), WR Jakobi Meyers (50; 94%), WR Damiere Byrd (45; 85%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (39; 74%), FB Jakob Johnson (34; 64%), RB Damien Harris (34; 64%), WR N’Keal Harry (26; 49%), RB James White (20; 38%), OT Justin Herron (15; 28%), WR Gunner Olszewski (1; 2%), WR Donte Moncrief (1; 2%), OT Korey Cunningham (1; 2%), RB Sony Michel (1; 2%)
Even with Sony Michel back on the game day roster — he was moved from injured reserve to the 53-man squad last week but eventually deactivated against the Houston Texans — the top early-down running back role still belongs to Damien Harris. The second-year back, who played some tremendous football during Michel’s absence, led the position with 34 snaps. The former first-round draft pick, meanwhile, was limited to just one offensive snap in his comeback despite change-of-pace back Rex Burkhead being out for the year.
Up front, meanwhile, the Patriots saw some movement. With Isaiah Wynn on injured reserve for at least three weeks, Jermaine Eluemunor took over the starting left tackle spot. Unlike his predecessor, however, he was subject to a rotation: Eluemunor did not play all 53 offensive snaps like the rest of the offensive line, but had to make way for sixth-round rookie Justin Herron — himself just activated off IR last week — on 15 snaps.
At the skill positions, the Patriots relied on some familiar faces. While Ryan Izzo was the lone tight end to see playing time on offense, Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd again served as the one-two punch at wide receiver. N’Keal Harry, on the other hand, was employed as a rotational third option. Unlike Meyers and Byrd, however, he did not show up on the stat sheet outside of three unsuccessful targets and an offensive holding penalty.
Total snaps: 74
S Devin McCourty (74; 100%), CB Stephon Gilmore (74; 100%), CB J.C. Jackson (62; 84%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (71; 82%), LB Chase Winovich (60; 81%), LB John Simon (58; 78%), S Kyle Dugger (54; 73%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (53; 72%), S Adrian Phillips (52; 70%), DT Lawrence Guy (49; 66%), DT Adam Butler (47; 64%), CB Jonathan Jonens (41; 55%), CB Jason McCourty (31; 42%), LB Terez Hall (30; 41%), LB Josh Uche (16; 22%), LB Anfernee Jennings (14; 19%), DT Akeem Spence (14; 19%), CB Myles Bryant (13; 18%), DT Isaiah Mack (10; 14%), S Terrence Brooks (2; 3%)
With Arizona fielding one of the most potent rushing attacks in football, the Patriots decided to move away from their usual defensive-back-heavy alignments in order to bolster the front line — one that was missing nose tackles Carl Davis and Byron Cowart due to injury. Accordingly, linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley, Chase Winovich and John Simon were all given prominent snaps alongside an interior defensive line led by Deatrich Wise Jr, Lawrence Guy and an impressive Adam Butler.
The secondary, meanwhile, saw some movement behind a top-three consisting of Devin McCourty, Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson. Rookie Kyle Dugger was actually the fourth option alongside them, playing 54 of a possible 74 snaps and further establishing himself as a key member of New England’s secondary. Adrian Phillips, on the other hand, was on the field for “only” 52 snaps but missed a handful after suffering an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter (just like Jackson).
On the rotational front, the Patriots received some solid contributions by rookie linebacker Josh Uche and practice squad call-up Akeem Spence: while the former was able to flush Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray from the pocket on one occasion, the latter played a key role in New England’s successful goal-line stand to close out the first half.
Total snaps: 22
S Cody Davis (18; 82%), WR Matthew Slater (18; 82%), CB Justin Bethel (18; 82%), LB Chase Winovich (16; 73%), WR Gunner Olszewski (11; 50%), S Adrian Phillips (11; 50%), CB Jonathan Jones (11; 50%), P Jake Bailey (11; 50%), CB Joejuan Williams (10; 45%), WR Donte Moncrief (9; 41%), LB Anfernee Jennings (9; 41%), LB John Simon (8; 36%), FB Jakob Johnson (7; 32%), LS Joe Cardona (7; 32%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (5; 23%), LB Terez Hall (5; 23%), LB Josh Uche (5; 23%), S Terrence Brooks (5; 23%), G Joe Thuney (4; 18%), G Shaq Mason (4; 18%), OT Michael Onwenu (4; 18%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (4; 18%), OT Justin Herron (4; 18%), OT Korey Cunningham (4; 18%), S Devin McCourty (4; 18%), DT Akeem Spence (4; 18%), CB Myles Bryant (4; 18%), DT Isaiah Mack (4; 18%), TE Jordan Thomas (4; 18%), K Nick Folk (4; 18%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (3; 14%), S Kyle Dugger (3; 14%), CB Jason McCourty (2; 9%), RB Sony Michel (1; 5%)
The Patriots used 34 players in the game’s third phase, with eight of them being used exclusively in the kicking game: the three specialists — Nick Folk, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona — as well as Cody Davis, Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Joejuan Williams and Justin Thomas. While seeing them on this list is no surprise, Williams’ usage does stand out given that the former second-round draft pick finally saw some defensive playing time again last week. Against Arizona, however, he was back to playing special teams only.
Also being prominently featured in the kicking game was Donte Moncrief, who was elevated from the practice squad alongside Akeem Spence and instantly thrust into the kickoff return role (one that previously belong to a rather unsuccessful Gunner Olszewski). The move paid off with Moncrief gaining 75 yards on two returns — including a 53-yarder in the first quarter.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham, C James Ferentz
With the game coming down to the wire, Jarrett Stidham once again had to ride the bench throughout the contest — the sixth time this happened since he climbed to the number two spot on the quarterback depth chart. The same is also true for James Ferentz, who did establish himself as the clear top backup along the interior offensive line after the release of Hjalte Froholdt but is limited to emergency duty nevertheless.
QB Brian Hoyer, RB J.J. Taylor, WR Isaiah Ford, LB Tashawn Bower, DT Byron Cowart
With Isaiah Wynn and Rex Burkhead both being sent to injured reserve ahead of the game, only three of the Patriots’ inactives were actually listed on the practice report heading into the weekend: Tashawn Bower (illness), Byron Cowart (back) and J.J. Taylor (quad) were all deemed as questionable by Friday and ultimately unable to go. Brian Hoyer and Isaiah Ford, meanwhile, were healthy scratches.