Well, after all that reported offseason strife, it turns out the New England Patriots are still pretty good.
Who woulda thunk it?
The Patriots started the 2018 season better than they began 2014 and 2017, when they lost in Week 1. The Patriots’ offense didn’t show any major issues while wide receiver Julian Edelman began serving a four-game suspension, and the defense performed better than expected while being put in a hole by their offense and special teams multiple times.
The Patriots’ defense only surrendered a field goal after quarterback Tom Brady threw an interception (was it his fault? Keep reading to find out) inside New England’s 20-yard line. They let up one of two Texans touchdowns when wide receiver Riley McCarron muffed a punt inside New England’s 20.
Using Pro Football Focus‘ advanced metrics, let’s go through our weekly takeaways:
DE Trey Flowers: 1.5 sacks, QB hit, four hurries on 30 snaps
DE Deatrich Wise Jr.: 1.5 sacks, two hurries on 18 snaps
DT Malcom Brown: QB hit, two hurries on 19 snaps
DE Keionta Davis: QB hit, two hurries 19 snaps
LB Kyle Van Noy: three hurries on 17 snaps
DT Lawrence Guy: QB hit, hurry on 14 snaps
LB Dont’a Hightower: two hurries on five snaps
DE Adrian Clayborn: two hurries on 20 snaps
SS Patrick Chung: hurry on one snap
— Flowers is in a contract year. Watch out. He’s in for a big season if he continues to play like he did Sunday afternoon. The Patriots might want to lock him up now. He’ll be expensive on the open market this March, especially if he hits double-digit sacks. Flowers only had two games with seven or more pressures last season.
— The Patriots’ front seven did a great job of containing Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson while pressuring him at the same time. This is a group that has a lot of potential with Wise and Davis both second-year players.
— It was interesting to see Van Noy get more pass-rushing opportunities than Hightower. Hightower is typically the better blitzer as demonstrated by his 40 percent pressure rate.
— The Patriots made Davis active over Rivers. Davis, a 2017 undrafted free agent, had a nice game, so there’s no reason for him to relinquish the role to Rivers, a 2017 third-round pick.
CB Stephon Gilmore: four catches on six targets, 50 yards, INT, PBU, two holding penalties
SS Patrick Chung: 1-4, 27 yards
CB Jonathan Jones: 2-5, 23 yards, PBU
CB Eric Rowe: 4-6, 22 yards, TD, PBU
FS Duron Harmon: 2-3, 19 yards
FS Devin McCourty: 2-3, 17 yards
LB Elandon Roberts: 1-1, 13 yards
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: 1-2, 5 yards
LB Dont’a Hightower: 0-1
CB Jason McCourty: 0-1
— Gilmore had a difficult assignment against Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins. He also was flagged twice for holding, but overall, his performance was a positive one.
— I charted Jones for allowing no receptions on three targets. PFF assigned him in coverage on catches by running back Lamar Miller and tight end Ryan Griffin, as well.
— With Chung, Harmon and McCourty at safety and Gilmore, Rowe and Jones at cornerback, this secondary has some high upside. They’ll be even better if the front seven can continue to get pressure on the opposing quarterback.
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: three run stops
DE Trey Flowers: three run stops
DT Lawrence Guy: two run stops
DT Danny Shelton: two run stops
DT Adam Butler: one run stop
DT Malcom Brown: one run stop
LB Kyle Van Noy: one run stop
LB Elandon Roberts: one run stop
CB Jonathan Jones: one run stop
CB Stephon Gilmore: one run stop
— Bentley played the sixth most defensive snaps behind Gilmore, Rowe, McCourty, Chung and Harmon. It’s a little surprising he was on the field more than guys like Hightower and Flowers, but he played well.
— Bentley and Van Noy each had tackles for loss. Van Noy’s came on an end-around to Hopkins that resulted in a 7-yard loss. Bentley stuffed running back Lamar Miller for a 1-yard loss.
— Guy and Roberts and Flowers and Guy also split tackles for loss.
RT Marcus Cannon: QB hit, two hurries
OT LaAdrian Waddle: sack, QB hit
C David Andrews: sack
RG Shaq Mason: QB hit
LT Trent Brown: hurry
QB Tom Brady: hurry
— That’s a tremendous job by the Patriots’ offensive line while going against J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney.
— Left guard Joe Thuney’s name is missing from the above list because he didn’t allow any pressure. That’s a good start for the player considered the weak link on the 2017 offensive line.
— Andrews rarely gives up sacks, so it was surprising to see him dominated off the line by Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader on the sack.
— Among Brady’s 13 incompletions, one was thrown away and one came when he was hit while throwing. His interception also was batted at the line of scrimmage.
— The Patriots didn’t suffer any drops during the game.
— Brady was 3-of-6 for 83 yards on passes of 20 yards and more. Tight end Rob Gronkowski caught all three. Brady also threw incomplete deep passes to wide receivers Chris Hogan and Riley McCarron and running back Rex Burkhead.
— We were particularly impressed with wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who caught seven of seven passes for 66 yards with a touchdown. We think he could be a classic mid-tier receiver in the Patriots’ system like Donte Stallworth, David Givens, David Patten or Jabar Gaffney.
— Brady completed passes to eight of 11 active skill players. He targeted but didn’t complete a pass to receiver Riley McCarron. He didn’t target tight end Dwayne Allen, and wide receiver/special teamer Matthew Slater didn’t see the field on offense.
— It was surprising to see McCarron play just one fewer snap (15) than wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (16).
RB Rex Burkhead: three missed tackles
WR Cordarrelle Patterson: three missed tackles
RB James White: one missed tackle
— It was very unfortunate to see running back Jeremy Hill suffer what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Hill looked good, carrying the ball four times for 25 yards, before the injury. He also caught a 6-yard pass.
— Burkhead looked fine in his return to the field following a training camp knee injury. It’s possible he’s still knocking off some rust.
— White will never be a game-breaker as a ball-carrier. It was surprising to see him catch just four of nine targets. He did haul in a touchdown catch.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images