Patriots-Steelers Takeaways: Tom Brady, Chris Hogan Connects Deep In Win

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With two weeks until the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, one debate surely will rage on through the hot-take radio waves: Is Tom Brady keying in on wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan too much?

Edelman and Hogan have made up 530 of Brady’s 671 yards and three of his five touchdowns through two playoff games. Brady’s completing 74.4 percent of his passes to Edelman and Hogan and just 51.2 percent to other receivers.

The short answer to this inevitable debate, however, is no. Edelman and Hogan are playing like Brady’s best receivers, so there’s no logical reason not to target them. It’s also been a winning formula through two playoff games, and the Falcons’ defense is considerably worse than the Houston Texans’ or Steelers’. So, if it worked against those teams, it should work against the Falcons.

It likely would help the Patriots’ if tight end Martellus Bennett, running back James White or one of Brady’s other receivers could get more heavily involved, but the Patriots QB is at his best when he trusts his receivers, and it’s clear he trusts Edelman and Hogan right now. Brady might as well keep it going.

Let’s get into this week’s takeaways.

PASS COVERAGE
Eric Rowe: 3-10, 67 yards, TD, INT, PBU
Patrick Chung: 4-5, 55 yards
Logan Ryan: 5-9, 43 yards, two PBUs
Malcolm Butler: 4-6, 36 yards PBU
Chris Long: 1-1, 18 yards
Rob Ninkovich: 2-3, 12 yards
Kyle Van Noy: 1-2, 5 yards
Devin McCourty: 1-1, 4 yards

— Butler performed well while following Antonio Brown around the field. It was the first time the Patriots have held Brown under 100 yards since Butler became their go-to cornerback.

— Ryan didn’t allow a single reception during the second half. He forced all four of his incompletions in the second half.

— Rowe had a very up-and-down performance, allowing two 30-yard receptions, including the touchdowns. He grabbed one of the Patriots’ two turnovers, however.

PASS RUSH
Chris Long: three hurries
Alan Branch: three hurries
Malcom Brown: three hurries
Trey Flowers: QB hit, hurry
Kyle Van Noy: two hurries
Shea McClellin: two hurries
Jabaal Sheard: two hurries
Dont’a Hightower: hurry
Elandon Roberts: hurry
Alan Branch: hurry

— The Patriots barely touched Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They recorded no sacks and just one quarterback hit.

— The Patriots’ interior linemen were able to get more pressure than usual as Branch and Brown each had three sacks.

— Long said after the game that the Patriots were frequently sending three pass rushers at Roethlisberger.

PASS PROTECTION
Joe Thuney: sack, three hurries
Nate Solder: four hurries
Marcus Cannon: two hurries
Martellus Bennett: hurry
David Andrews: hurry
Shaq Mason: hurry

— Thuney got tossed by Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave on the sack he allowed.

— The other time Brady was sacked came when he was tackled for no gain by a defensive back while scrambling out of the pocket.

— The Patriots’ offensive line did a nice job overall of protecting Brady against a surging Steelers pass rush.

TOM BRADY ACCURACY
1. Attempt to Malcolm Mitchell dropped
2. Miscommunication with Mitchell
3. Throw behind Chris Hogan
4. Under pressure, grounded to James White
5. Spike
6. Dropped by Edelman
7. Mitchell goes out of bounds
8. Dropped by Hogan
9. Thrown out in front of Edelman
10. Thrown to Hogan out of end zone

— Of Brady’s 10 incompletions, only three were inaccurate. Five incompletions were the fault of the receiver, one was a spike and one was because of pressure.

— Brady went 5-of-6 for 139 yards with two touchdowns on deep passes. All five of those deep completions went to Hogan. His incompletion also went to Hogan. Hogan led the NFL in yards per reception this season. It’s no surprise to see Brady targeting the receiver on so many deep routes, especially as he finds himself open down the field.

Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images

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