The New England Patriots’ season is over, and it ended with a victory: the Patriots defeated the visiting New York Jets with a final score of 28-14. The performance in Week 17 was one of New England’s best on the season, and a positive note upon which to enter a period of uncertainty that projects to be crucial for the future of the organization both in the short and the long run.
Before talking about the big picture, however, let’s take a look back at the game against the Jets to see how New England opted to use the talent on its roster.
Total snaps: 65
C James Ferentz (65; 100%), G Joe Thuney (65; 100%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (65; 100%), G Michael Onwenu (65; 100%), WR Jakobi Meyers (65; 100%), QB Cam Newton (65; 100%), WR N’Keal Harry (58; 89%), OT Justin Herron (41; 63%), RB Sony Michel (41; 63%), WR Damiere Byrd (40; 62%), TE Devin Asiasi (35; 54%), TE Dalton Keene (30; 46%), OT Korey Cunningham (24; 37%), RB James White (20; 31%), FB Jakob Johnson (19; 29%), WR Gunner Olszewski (13; 20%), RB J.J. Taylor (4; 6%)
With David Andrews and Shaq Mason both inactive, the Patriots had to shuffle their offensive line: James Ferentz and Michael Onwenu took the starting spots at center and right tackle, respectively, while Justin Herron (RT), Joe Thuney (RG) and Jermaine Eluemunor (RT) completed the lineup. Herron leaving the game with an ankle injury in the second half, however, led to another change with Korey Cunningham coming on for the final 24 snaps. A season that saw plenty of movement up front therefore ended in appropriate fashion.
At the skill positions, the Patriots gave Sony Michel a heavy workload. The former first-round draft pick played a season-high 41 snaps and made the most out of them: he finished with 76 rushing yards on 16 attempts and also added three catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. James White also was involved quite a bit in the passing game, finishing with four catches for 31 yards and a score in his 20 snaps.
The wide receiver position was primarily manned by Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry. With Damiere Byrd playing only 40 snaps due to a head injury, Harry was elevated to the number two spot and saw his highest playing time share since Week 6 as a result. However, he finished with just two receptions for 17 yards. For comparison, Meyers caught six passes for 68. Also catching two passes — for 39 yards and a score — was Devin Asiasi; the rookie was back to splitting reps with Dalton Keene after taking on the TE1 role last week.
Total snaps: 63
S Kyle Dugger (63; 100%), S Devin McCourty (63; 100%), LB Chase Winovich (57; 90%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (53; 84%), CB J.C. Jackson (53; 84%), CB Jonathan Jones (49; 78%), DT Adam Butler (49; 78%), LB John Simon (44; 70%), CB Myles Bryant (44; 70%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (38; 60%), CB Joejuan Williams (36; 57%), CB Jason McCourty (29; 46%), DT Lawrence Guy (27; 43%), DT Byron Cowart (21; 33%), DT Akeem Spence (19; 30%), LB Rashod Berry (14; 22%), S Terrence Brooks (12; 19%), LB Shilique Calhoun (12; 19%), S Adrian Phillips (4; 6%), CB Michael Jackson Sr. (4; 6%), LB Cassh Maluia (2; 3%)
While the offense looked more or less like it did all season in terms of personnel usage, the Patriots used more of a rotational approach on the defensive side of the ball. This was especially evident in the secondary, where Kyle Dugger and Devin McCourty went wire-to-wire (a common occurrence for McCourty, but a first for the rookie Dugger) but four cornerbacks played at least 29 of a possible 63 snaps.
At linebacker, meanwhile, the team relied heavily on Chase Winovich and Ja’Whaun Bentley — which was not a surprise given that Terez Hall, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings were all unavailable. Winovich led the front seven with 57 snaps despite suffering a hand injury along the way, while Bentley returned as the number one off-the-ball option after missing last week’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
The defensive line, on the other hand, was led by three impending free agents: Adam Butler played 49 snaps; Deatrich Wise Jr. added 38; Lawrence Guy was on the field for 27. All three are scheduled to hit the open market in a little more than two months, and their usage against the Jets shows that the position will have to be a priority for the Patriots one way or the other.
Total snaps: 25
S Cody Davis (21; 84%), CB Justin Bethel (21; 84%), WR Matthew Slater (21; 84%), S Kyle Dugger (17; 68%), LB Rashod Berry (16; 64%), S Terrence Brooks (14; 56%), P Jake Bailey (14; 56%), WR Gunner Olszewski (13; 52%), WR Donte Moncrief (13; 52%), FB Jakob Johnson (12; 48%), CB Jonathan Jones (12; 48%), CB Joejuan Williams (11; 44%), LS Joe Cardona (10; 40%), LB John Simon (9; 36%), LB Chase Winovich (6; 24%), CB Myles Bryant (5; 20%), LB Shilique Calhoun (5; 20%), K Nick Folk (5; 20%), C James Ferentz (4; 16%), G Joe Thuney (4; 16%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (4; 16%), G Michael Onwenu (4; 16%), OT Korey Cunningham (4; 16%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (4; 16%), DT Byron Cowart (4; 16%), LB Cassh Maluia (4; 16%), OT Justin Herron (3; 12%), CB Jason McCourty (3; 12%), WR N’Keal Harry (2; 8%), DT Akeem Spence (2; 8%), S Adrian Phillips (2; 8%), RB James White (1; 4%), RB J.J. Taylor (1; 4%), S Devin McCourty (1; 4%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (1; 4%), C Marcus Martin (1; 4%)
The Patriots used 36 different players in the kicking game on Sunday, including eight players that were exclusively employed in the third phase: specialists Nick Folk, Jake Bailey and Joe Cardona as well as core coverage personnel Cody David, Justin Bethel and Matthew Slater, kickoff returner Donte Moncrief and recent addition to the roster Marcus Martin.
Among the other players that stand out is Chase Winovich. As he played 90 percent of New England’s defensive snaps despite hurting his hand, his kicking game contributions were scaled back a bit: he was on the field for “only” 24 percent of kicking game snaps — his lowest output since Week 6. Fellow linebacker Rashod Berry, meanwhile, took over a prominent role after being signed to the 53-man roster just one day before the game.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham, G Ross Reynolds
Despite the game being the Patriots’ last of the season, and with them already out of the playoff hunt, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham did not get an opportunity to take the field. He therefore ends the season with five in-game appearances, which is an increase over his 2019 rookie campaign but still not an encouraging workload.
QB Brian Hoyer, CB Dee Virgin, CB D’Angelo Ross, LB Anfernee Jennings, LB Terez Hall, C David Andrews, G Shaq Mason
After David Andrews and Shaq Mason were already ruled out heading into the weekend due to separate calf injuries, five more players joined them on the inactives list on Sunday. Anfernee Jennings and Terez Hall were also dealing with ailments — shoulder and ankle issues, respectively — while the other three were healthy scratches. For Hoyer, it was the 12th straight such designation following his disappointing Week 4 start against the Kansas City Chiefs.