Entering this week, the New England Patriots gave themselves an opportunity to finally get back above .500, and show the world that Matthew Judon was right when he said the Patriots were better than their record indicated. Against the Carolina Panthers, they did just that.
On defense, New England stifled Sam Darnold (what else is new) and held the Panthers to just six points. On offense, the Patriots did just enough to keep themselves ahead and allow the defense to play their brand of football. In the process they found a few things that could help contribute to their success down the line. How so? Let’s find out!
Total snaps: 62
G Ted Karras (62; 100%), C David Andrews (62; 100%), OT Michael Onwenu (62; 100%), G Shaq Mason (62; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (62; 100%), Mac Jones (56; 90%), WR Jakobi Meyers (55; 89%), WR Nelson Agholor (54; 87%), TE Hunter Henry (35; 56%), WR Kendrick Bourne (33; 53%), RB Brandon Bolden (29; 47%), TE Jonnu Smith (28; 45%), Damien Harris (24; 39%), FB Jakob Johnson (21; 34%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (17; 27%), OT Justin Herron (6; 10%), QB Brian Hoyer (6; 10%), WR Kristian Wilkerson (4; 6%), WR Matthew Slater (3; 5%), WR Gunner Olszewski (1; 2%)
The Patriots offense has found a formula, and seem to be sticking to it. Their new starting unit on the offensive line played all 62 snaps on Sunday, the third straight week that the entire unit cracked 90% of the teams snaps. The man they were protecting in Mac Jones was able to stay healthy, only leaving the game late for veteran Brian Hoyer to captain the ship once the game was already in hand.
The running backs have become a big focus on this Patriots offense, making it near impossible for the team to play without one at times. In fact, on Sunday they had at least one back on the field at all times. Once again Harris (39%) and Stevenson (27%) handled the majority of early down carries, but both went down with head injuries toward the end of the game, ultimately leading to a heavy dose of Brandon Bolden (47%) in the fourth quarter.
Mac Jones’ receivers follow their pecking order to a tee. Jakobi Meyers plays almost all of the offensive snaps, while Nelson Agholor comes in a close second. Hunter Henry barely outpaces Jonnu Smith, with Kendrick Bourne finding himself in between the two tight ends. It’s a formula that has worked well enough that makes it seem as though it won’t be changing any time soon.
Total snaps: 59
S Devin McCourty (59; 100%), LB Matthew Judon (53; 90%), CB Jalen Mills (51; 86%), S Adrian Phillips (47; 80%), S Kyle Dugger (42; 71%), LB Kyle Van Noy (41; 69%), DT Christian Barmore (40; 68%), CB J.C. Jackson (38; 64%), LB Dont’a Hightower (37, 63%), DT Davon Godchaux (35; 59%), DB Myles Bryant (32; 54%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (30; 51%), CB Joejuan Williams (29; 49%), DT Lawrence Guy (27; 46%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (27; 46%), DT Carl Davis (23; 39%), LB Josh Uche (17; 29%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (16; 27%), LB Jahlani Tavai (5; 8%)
If the offensive rotations are formulaic, the defensive rotations can be categorized as unpredictable. Devin McCourty led the way in the secondary as per usual, but Sunday saw J.C. Jackson’s usage drop all the way to 64%, by far his lowest on the season. This of course can be attributed to him having missed two practices during the week, but it was shocking to see he was closer to Myles Bryant (54%) then Jalen Mills (86%) in playing time.
The linebackers so an influx of the older generation on Sunday, with Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower being the only linebackers to crack the 60% mark. Trailing them were the four J’s; Ja’Whaun Bentley (51%), Josh Uche (29%), Jamie Collins (27%), and Jahlani Tavai (8%).
The defensive line has seen a big difference in playing time in recent weeks, as Christian Barmore has firmly planted himself as the top man on the unit. Davon Godchaux trailed him closely but the likes of Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Carl Davis have all seen themselves become rotational players with Barmore being much closer to an every down contributor.
Total snaps: 22
WR Matthew Slater (17; 77%), S Cody Davis (17; 77%), CB Justin Bethel (17; 77%), LB Calvin Munson (15; 68%), RB Brandon Bolden (15; 68%), LB Jahlani Tavai (14; 64%), LB Brandon King (14; 64%), P Jake Bailey (11; 50%), FB Jakob Johnson (11; 50%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (9; 41%), LS Joe Cardona (8; 36%), DT Lawrence Guy (8; 36%), K Nick Folk (7; 32%), S Kyle Dugger (7; 32%), LB Matthew Judon (6; 27%), OL Michael Onwenu (5; 23%), G Ted Karras (5; 23%), OT Isaiah Wynn (5; 23%), OT Justin Herron (5; 23%), Shaq Mason (5; 23%), WR Kristian Wilkerson (5; 23%), S Adrian Phillips (5; 23%), CB Joejuan Williams (5; 23%), DL Deatrich Wise Jr. (5; 23%), WR Gunner Olszewski (4; 18%), TE Hunter Henry (3; 14%), WR Jakobi Meyers (2; 9%), DT Christian Barmore (2; 9%), DB Myles Bryant (2; 9%), DT Davon Godchaux (2; 9%), CB J.C. Jackson (2; 9%), LB Josh Uche (2; 9%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (1; 5%), LB Dont’a Hightower (1; 5%)
Ladies and gentlemen the streak lives! For the fourth week in a row, New England has set a season high in special teamers played.
New England rolled out 34 separate players on their special teams units this week, good enough for most in the NFL this season. I would love to tell you that this is some sort of NFL record, but there is no way of finding that information because no one cares enough to keep it. Fun fact: New England has added to this number by one each of the last three weeks, do they know?
Did Not Play
OL Yodny Cajuste, OL James Ferentz
Brian Hoyer returned to the field on Sunday, relieving starter Mac Jones once the game was all but wrapped up. Yodny Cajuste and James Ferentz did not see the field, the second straight week for Ferentz.
WR N’Keal Harry, LB Ronnie Perkins, RB J.J. Taylor, TE Devin Asiasi, CB Shaun Wade, OL Yasir Durant
Despite practicing all week, N’Keal Harry was inactive on Sunday with a knee injury. He popped up on New England’s Friday injury report with the knee and was listed as a limited participant, and declared questionable for the game.
Linebacker Ronnie Perkins, tight end Devin Asiasi and cornerback Shaun Wade continued their stint on the inactive list, all having missed each of the Patriots’ nine games. Yasir Durant joined them for his third straight game as a healthy scratch.
Brandon King returned to the lineup, playing the majority of New England’s special teams snaps.