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While the New England Patriots were able to keep their week 15 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers close for four quarters John Hannah Color Rush Jersey , they ultimately did not make enough plays to come away victoriously. In the end, the visitors fell 17-10 and suffered its fifth defeat of the year. Let’s dig a little deeper into the game and analyze some advanced statistics from the game.Pass distributionNFL Next Gen StatsDespite having two players at his disposal that have made big plays in the past against the Pittsburgh-style defense in Josh Gordon and Rob Gronkowski, quarterback Tom Brady primarily targeted the underneath areas on Sunday. The plan mostly worked, though, as the 41-year old had plenty of success throwing the ball in this direction. The deep passing game, on the other hand, never fully materialized despite a 63-yard touchdown to Chris Hogan coming on the Patriots’ third offensive play of the day.The Steelers played a similar game: the deep passing rarely found success as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went 1 for 6 on throws targeting areas more than 20 yards downfield. However, just like Brady and the Patriots, Pittsburgh found success in the underneath portions of the field as Roethlisberger completed 15 of 19 passes between the line of scrimmage and the 10 yards out.Offensive rush directionNFL Next Gen StatsThe Patriots attempted just 19 runs all day long, with Sony Michel receiving the bulk of the workload. The rookie, as usual, fared relatively well and averaged 4.5 yards per carry with the most success coming behind the left side of the line. Rex Burkhead and James White, meanwhile, did gain positive yardage when given the opportunity. However, they combined to carry the football only six times all day long as New England was clearly trying to move the football via the pass — and the pass-run-ratio of 37:19 illustrates this.Receiver separationNFL Next Gen StatsChris Hogan’s average separation of 8.82 yards on his two catches obviously stands out: the Steelers were nowhere near him on one of his catches and allowed him to take it 63 yards to the end zone. Besides that one outlier, however Tedy Bruschi Jersey , Pittsburgh’s secondary played tight generally tight coverage when giving up receptions as none of the Patriots’ top pass catchers was more than 2.6 yards open on average at the time of a catch.The Patriots defense also competed well when it comes to pass coverage. While they allowed the team’s top receiving duo Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster to combine for eight catches, 89 receiving yards and a touchdown, the receptions were generally into tight windows and on contested throws. In short: New England was mostly covering well against a talented group of pass catchers.Pass protectionPass protection statisticsPlayerSnapsSacksQB HitsHurriesPlayerSnapsSacksQB Patriots’ offensive line had an inconsistent day — not just because four of its five members (all but center David Andrews) were penalized at least once. The unit also had some issues in pass protection, especially at the right tackle position: Marcus Cannon had a forgettable day and surrendered six total pressures against the Steelers. The rest of the unit was solid but not without blemish either, with the exception of right guard Shaq Mason who did however have a costly holding call late in the game.Pass rush/run defensePass rush/run defense statisticsPlayerSnapsSacksQB HitsHurriesRun stopsPlayerSnapsSacksQB HitsHurriesRun Pittsburgh respecting the impact Trey Flowers can have on a game, the Patriots’ best front-seven defender still registered a pair of quarterback hits. All in all, he produced one of the team’s better pass rushing performances on Sunday — being part of a unit that was inconsistent on the day: New England pressured Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on just 13 of his 36 drop-backs. While it is not necessarily a bad number, it also was enough to have a profound impact on the opponent’s offensive rhythm.Defensive rush directionNFL Next Gen StatsThe Steelers had tremendous success on the ground and the chart above reveals one reason for that: Pittsburgh generally did not want to challenge one of the NFL’s best run defenders, Trey Flowers. Flowers started the game on the defensive right side but was moved over to the left once the Steelers found success there. However, when he switched sides, Pittsburgh exploited the opposite side again. Wherever Flowers was, the Steelers tried to run away from — and in turn attacked the defensive tackles and the non-Flowers defensive edge.Pass rush separationNFL Next Gen StatsAs noted above, the Patriots’ pass rushers were not necessarily bad when it came to pressuring Ben Roethlisberger but they also did not have too big of an impact on the Steelers’ overall offensive momentum. The average distance between the pass rushers and the quarterback illustrates this well: New England was oftentimes relatively far away from Roethlisberger. The Steelers’ pass rush, on the other hand, came closer to Tom Brady. And even though none of the numbers stands out, it was still enough to mess with the Patriots’ offensive rhythm at times.Pass coveragePass coveragestatisticsPlayerSnapsTargetsCompletionsYardsTouchdownsInterceptionsRatingPa
BreakupsPlayerSnapsTargetsCompletionsYardsTouchdownsInterceptionsRatingPass Patriots’ coverage players had a solid overall game against the Steelers Rob Gronkowski Color Rush Jersey , especially when it comes to limiting the team’s dangerous receiving duo of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The two players primarily responsible for guarding the two wideouts — Stephon Gilmore and rookie J.C. Jackson — fared well despite being regularly targeted. Both allowed a below-average completion rate against their difficult assignments.The rest of the Patriots’ secondary was a bit inconsistent, however. Jason McCourty surrendered a perfect 158.3 passer rating for the second week in a row (albeit in a limited sample size), while safety Patrick Chung also gave up a touchdown. Still, holding Pittsburgh’s offense to 218 net passing yards has to be considered a successful day for the entire defense. The New England Patriots’ offensive line is coming off a terrific two-game playoff stretch. Against the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs, two teams with a talented pass rush, quarterback Tom Brady was pressured just 15 times in total: he was hit thrice and hurried 12 additional times. While this speaks for Brady’s ability to quickly get rid of the football, it is also proof of the quality of New England’s offensive line.Now, the unit will face quite possibly its toughest challenge to date — especially because of one man: Aaron Donald, who is not just the Los Angeles Rams’ best defensive player but arguably the best defensive player in all of football. The numbers speak for themselves, as Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss during the regular season.And even though he was kept sackless through the playoffs so far, the Patriots know about his talents and ability to single-handedly impact a game. “He’s a great athlete, the film study shows that,” said New England right offensive tackle Marcus Cannon about the 27-year old. “20+ sacks, numerous tackles for loss, forced fumbles. The guy’s a monster. It’s going to be a big task for us.”“He’s an elite player,” added starting left guard Joe Thuney. “He’s in the MVP considerations as a defensive lineman , which is really almost unheard of. You see teams trying to prevent him from making big plays and he still manages to have remarkable numbers. It’s going to take a team effort, lot of communication, lot of technique.”So far during the postseason, the Patriots have displayed all those traits at a tremendous level — which is what helped them slow down the likes of the Chargers’ Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa and the Chiefs’ Chris Jones, Dee Ford and Justin Houston. But Donald presents a different task due to his elite athletic skills and ability to fight his way through offensive linemen.“He’s never blocked. You might think you have him at the next thing you know he’s past you,” said Patriots center David Andrews. “He’s quick, quick off the ball, he’s powerful. He’s a great player and he’s at the top of his game right now. He’s the best defensive player in football. We’re a good unit, played a lot of football together but it will be a big challenge this weekend and we’re going to have our hands full.”The Patriots know that they have to be near-perfect going against Donald and the rest of Los Angeles’ terrific pass rush. But while Ndamukong Suh, Cory Littleton and company are all dangerous players in their own right, Donald is the focal point. You make a mistake against a guy like that, there’s no recovery,” said Andrews about facing off against the NFL’s likely defensive player of the year. “You gotta be on your game at all times. “
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