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Patriots vs Dolphins advanced stats: New England’s running game, secondary dominate

Related: Patriots vs Dolphins snap counts: What Week 1 tells us about New England’s roster

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have opened the regular season with a 1-0 record, thanks to a 21-11 opening day victory over the visiting Miami Dolphins. That win saw an encouraging performance on both offense and defense, as the Patriots’ running game and pass coverage in particular stood out on Sunday — something the statistics behind the game confirms.

Before taking a look at them, however, we will have to explain two of the categories you will meet here that extend beyond conventional statistics:

  • OSR: OSR stands for “Offensive Success Rate” and is based on Bill Connelly’s work at SB Nation. It aims to characterize how successful a play was relative to the down and distance in which it took place. For a play be considered a success it will have to gain at least 50 percent of the necessary yardage on first down (i.e. at least 5 yards on 1st-and-10), 70 percent on second down (i.e. at least 7 yards on 2nd-and-10), and 100 percent on both third and fourth down (i.e. at least 10 yards on 3rd-and-10 and 4th-and-10).
  • EPA: EPA stands for “Expected Points Added” and is based on the work done by Ben Baldwin through his website rbsdm.com. EPA aims at measuring the value of individual offensive plays in terms of points by calculating what is expected to happen on an individual play depending on down, distance, field position and game situation and contrasting it with the eventual outcome.

With that being said, let’s dig into the numbers.

Quarterbacks

Quarterback statistics

Player Snaps Attempts Completions Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Drops Pressure rate Rating OSR EPA
Player Snaps Attempts Completions Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Drops Pressure rate Rating OSR EPA
Cam Newton 64 19 15 155 0 0 1 17.4% 100.7 57.9% -2.3

Cam Newton was not asked to do a lot of heavy lifting on Sunday, but he was generally efficient as a passer by completing 78.9 percent of his pass attempts. That said, while his raw numbers and passer rating show that he had a solid performance, his OSR and EPA are not exactly overwhelming: only a little more than half of Newton’s passes can be considered a success, while his cumulative EPA of -2.3 is worse than that of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick despite the latter throwing three interceptions.

The Patriots’ passing game had a solid start on Sunday and was not needed to beat Miami behind a solid ground attack. That said, if the offense cannot rely on the run to get the job done — if playing from behind, for example — it needs to get better at moving the football through the air.

Ball carriers

Ball carrier statistics

Player Snaps Attempts Yards Yards after Contact Touchdowns Fumbles OSR EPA
Player Snaps Attempts Yards Yards after Contact Touchdowns Fumbles OSR EPA
Cam Newton 64 14 76 23 2 0 71.4% 6.1
Julian Edelman 37 1 23 0 0 0 100.0% 2.2
Sony Michel 19 10 37 17 1 0 80.0% 1.7
Rex Burkhead 19 7 32 9 0 0 57.1% 1.4
James White 19 5 22 15 0 0 40.0% -0.3
J.J. Taylor 9 4 28 14 0 0 75.0% 1.8

As noted above, New England’s running game had a strong outing against the Dolphins. The blocking up front played an integral part in this — be it the offensive line or the tight end position — but so did the backs themselves: led by Newton’s 76 yards on 14 non-kneel down attempts, the Patriots throttled Miami’s run defense to the tune of 218 rushing yards and an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Newton was not the only player to stand out.

As can be seen, five of the six players carrying the football earned positive marks both in terms of their success rates and the expected points they created.

One player worth mentioning in this regard is Sony Michel. While the former first-round pick finished with an average of just 3.7 yards per carry, eight of his rushes were considered successful while he earned a 1.7 EPA — second most among the true backs behind rookie J.J. Taylor. Michel is an easy target for criticism based on his position and draft status, but he had a solid start to the 2020 season after undergoing foot surgery earlier this year.

Pass receivers

Pass receiving statistics

Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Yards after Catch Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Drops OSR EPA
Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Yards after Catch Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Drops OSR EPA
Ryan Izzo 63 1 1 25 11 0 0 118.8 0 100.0% 1.3
N'Keal Harry 51 5 5 39 23 0 0 99.2 0 60.0% -3.3
Julian Edelman 37 7 5 57 25 0 0 95.5 1 71.4% 3.0
James White 19 3 3 30 25 0 0 108.3 0 66.7% 0.4
J.J. Taylor 9 1 1 4 8 0 0 83.3 0 0.0% 0.0

As evidenced by Newton’s raw passing numbers, the Patriots’ aerial attack played a comparatively small role compared to the ground game. When the Patriots did take to the air, however, they did produce some solid results especially through two players: Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry.

Edelman led the team with five receptions for 57 yards, and registered a 71.4 percent success rate as well as a 3.0 EPA. Harry, meanwhile, also had five catches while gaining 39 yards with a 60 percent success rate. His -2.3 EPA, however, highlights his worst play of the day: he lost a fumble near the goal line late in the third quarter that rolled through the end zone for a touchback and change in possession.

Pass protection/run blocking

Pass protection/run blocking statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Stuffed runs
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Stuffed runs
David Andrews 64 1.0 0 0 0
Joe Thuney 64 0.0 1.5 0 1
Shaq Mason 64 0.0 1 0 1
Isaiah Wynn 64 0.0 0.5 0 0
Jermaine Eluemunor 48 0.0 0 0 0
Michael Onwenu 22 0.0 0 1 0

Despite having to reintegrate two new players — David Andrews, who missed all of last year because of blood clots in his lungs; Jermaine Eluemunor, who started at right tackle in place of Covid-19 opt-out Marcus Cannon — the Patriots’ offensive line did a very good job against Miami. The unit had a terrific outing in the running game, as evidenced by the fact that just two runs were stuffed for no gain or a loss of yardage, and also looked good in pass protection. It was an encouraging performance by a unit that had its ups and downs in 2019.

Pass rush/run defense

Pass rush/run defense statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Stuffed runs
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Stuffed runs
Ja'Whaun Bentley 51 0.0 1 0 0
Adrian Phillips 43 0.0 1 0 0.5
John Simon 42 0.0 2 0 0.5
Chase Winovich 42 0.0 1 1.5 1
Terrence Brooks 29 0.0 0 0 1
Deatrich Wise Jr. 24 0.0 2 1 0.5
Byron Cowart 21 0.0 0 0 1.5
Derek Rivers 20 1.0 0 0.5 0
Kyle Dugger 11 0.0 0 1 0
Brandon Copeland 8 0.0 0 1 0

New England’s defensive front-seven is looking markedly different when compared to last season, but the unit still had a solid performance when it came to putting pressure on Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and stuffing the run. Led by John Simon, Chase Winovich and Deatrich Wise Jr, the unit applied pressure on 38.2 percent of Fitzpatrick’s dropbacks.

It also allowed the Dolphins to gain just 3.4 yards on 26 carries. In fact, only one of Miami’s four ball carriers earned a positive EPA on the day: Fitzpatrick, who finished with a 1.6.

Pass coverage

Pass coverage statistics

Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Pass Breakups Pass interference Rating OSR
Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Pass Breakups Pass interference Rating OSR
Devin McCourty 61 2 2 32 0 0 0 0 118.8 100.0%
Stephon Gilmore 59 7 4 42 0 1 0 2 35.1 28.6%
J.C. Jackson 46 5 2 18 0 1 1 0 10.8 40.0%
Jonathan Jones 46 3 1 8 0 0 0 0 42.4 33.3%
Jason McCourty 45 1 1 5 0 0 0 0 87.5 100.0%
Adrian Phillips 43 4 3 34 0 1 0 0 60.4 50.0%
Terrence Brooks 29 3 3 17 0 0 0 1 90.3 33.3%
Joejuan Williams 27 2 1 9 0 0 1 0 62.5 50.0%
Brandon Copeland 8 1 1 -1 0 0 0 0 79.2 0.0%

The Dolphins did find some success through the air, but New England’s secondary still made too many plays for its opponent to seriously threaten it. Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson and Adrian Phillips all were able to pick off passes — and they were not the only defensive backs to play an impressive game. Jonathan Jones was his usual stout self in the slot, while Joejuan Williams did a mighty fine job against Miami tight end Mike Gesicki.

The Patriots’ secondary is the strength of the entire team, and on Sunday it showed again how tough it was to move the ball against it. Ryan Fitzpatrick finishing the game with a success rate of only 46.7 percent and an EPA of -1.3 is proof of that.