Best of BSJ Free Preview

Bedard’s Breakdown: Tallying the Patriots’ performance at the midway point

(Adam Richins for BSJ)

With the bye week done and the Patriots through eight games, this is a good point to total up some of the numbers we tabulate during the season (sacks allowed, QB pressures, stuffed runs) and a few new ones (touchdowns and big plays allowed) to see if there are any trends we can notice.

We'll also go through the most efficient units, and give our Three Up and Three Down for the first half.

Let's get to it:

Offensive pressure by game

Thoughts:

  • Average pressure is around 30 percent. Patriots were 1-1 in their two best and worst pass-blocking games.
  • The worst blocking performance was against the Texans — worst rate for pass and run blocking — yet the Patriots still won the game. That means Tom Brady was being Tom Brady.
  • The offensive line had made a lot of progress, at least until the Chargers game. That likely was a direct result of Brady getting beaten up and the team making it a point of emphasis for him to get rid of the ball quicker.

Blocking by player

Thoughts:

  • No surprise here: Nate Solder gave up the most pressure on the line, and almost double the second-most on the list (Marcus Cannon).
  • In terms of pressure allowed per game, Solder owns four of the top five spots.
  • Most sacks allowed in a game: 2, Solder (Texans) and Cannon (Chiefs).
  • The three tackles (Solder, Cannon and LaAdrian Waddle) allowed 66 of the 113 total QB pressures allowed, or 58.4 percent for the entire team.
  • Tom Brady allowed the second-most sacks on the team behind Cannon because of hanging onto the ball.
  • Running backs only allowed one pressure as a group (Mike Gillislee). That's excellent, and yet another indication of Ivan Fears' outstanding coaching.
  • Most run stuffs allowed in a game: 3, David Andrews (Saints).
  • After allowing three pressures in each of the first three games and 11.5 in the first five total, Andrews has not allowed a pressure in the past three games.

Defensive pressure by game

  • There's only one game (Panthers) you can point to and say the Patriots did a good job getting to the quarterback. That's concerning.
  • There were three games (Saints, Bucs, Chargers), where the Patriots basically had no pass rush.
  • The Patriots' run defense was nonexistent in the first four games. It has been much improved in the last four games.
  • Patriots failed to register double-digit pressures in the final two games before the bye.

Pressure by player

  • Deatrich Wise is your surprise leader in pressure at the halfway point. Hey D-Dubs, the check is in the mail. Wise has played 51.3 percent of all defensive snaps. Trey Flowers had played 91.3 percent.
  • This is not optimal: Wise and Flowers account for 43.5 of the team's 88 pressures. That's 49.4 percent, and a little scary.
  • Between Wise, Cassius Marsh and Adam Butler, newcomers take up three of the top four spots in pressure and account for 42 percent. None has played more than 50 percent of snaps to this point.
  • In all, the team's four primary edge players in the first half (Wise, Flowers, Marsh and Dont'a Hightower) accounted for 64.2 percent of the pressure.
  • Another thing we didn't see coming: Kyle Van Noy (three) is tied with Flowers for the team sack lead.
  • Van Noy also leads the team with six stuffed runs (1 yard or less outside short yardage and goal line).
  • The four interior players (Butler, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy and Alan Branch) have 18 total pressures among them, or 20.5 percent of the team total.

Touchdowns/big plays allowed

  • The first, second and fourth column are independent of each other. So 20 (yard)-plus passes are in addition to the 20 (yard)-plus touchdown passes. So Malcolm Butler allowed a team-high six passes of over 20 yards.
  • These numbers reinforce what was apparent: Butler and Devin McCourty have had subpar first halves of the season. Those two have accounted for 37.2 percent of the "big plays" (touchdowns and 20-plus passes) allowed. Throw in Patrick Chung and it climbs to 52.3 percent.
  • If Butler and McCourty can get back on track in the second half, the defense will do much better in the realm of big plays and touchdowns allowed.
  • You wonder where Stephon Gilmore would be on the list if he didn't miss three games.
  • If you went by big plays per defensive snap, the order from most to least would be: Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Gilmore, Butler, Chung, McCourty.
  • (For the record, I often split responsibility for touchdown passes, unless it was obvious.)

Positional efficiency

Rankings:

  • Quarterback, 3.6
  • Running backs, 3.6
  • Receivers/tight ends, 3.4
  • Defensive line, 3.4
  • Linebackers, 2.8
  • Offensive line, 2.4
  • Secondary, 1.7

Thoughts:

  • Nothing really surprising. Probably the thing that jumps out is that Tom Brady isn't running away with this, and that's probably my error. I like to do a check periodically to get a look at the bigger picture. Perhaps I'm holding him to too high a standard.
  • That being said, I don't disagree with my per-game grading for Brady in that the Chiefs, Jets and Chargers game were well below his excellent play in the others. Maybe the number needs to be adjusted by half a point.
  • This reinforces another belief: the defensive line is the only consistent group on this defense. But the whole unit is coming along.

Three up, first half

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Trey Flowers
  3. Rob Gronkowski

Three down, first half

  1. Nate Solder
  2. Stephon Gilmore
  3. Marcus Cannon

Stephon Gilmore questionable effort vs. Bucs?

Noticed this play going through first half touchdowns and big plays. Not sure what to make of it, but thought it was noteworthy since he hasn't played since.