Patriots-Dolphins Takeaways, Metrics: Are Sacks Overrated?


December 10, 2018

The New England Patriots’ offense and defense never quite seemed to marry Sunday in their shocking loss to the Miami Dolphins.

When the Patriots’ offense was hot early in the game, the defense seemed just as eager to let the Dolphins move down the field to score. And when the Patriots’ defense started piling up sacks and stops, their offense stalled and left points on the field.

At the end of the game, the Patriots’ offense seemed content to kick a field goal and make it just a five-point game, and their defense showed no interest in tackling Dolphins weapons as they weaved through the unit for a 69-yard “desperado” touchdown. That might have been a broken marriage.

Here’s this week’s statistical breakdown with numbers from Pro Football Focus.

DE Trey Flowers: sack, QB hit, three hurries
LB Dont’a Hightower: sack, QB hit, hurry
LB Kyle Van Noy: sack, hurry
DT Adam Butler: sack, hurry
DE John Simon: sack
CB Jonathan Jones: sack
DT Lawrence Guy: QB hit
DE Adrian Clayborn: hurry
FS Devin McCourty: hurry

— The Patriots came into the game averaging just 1.6 sacks per game, so it’s significant they were able to register a season-high six against the Dolphins. Their previous season high was three sacks.

— The Patriots, however, didn’t record any takeaways. Maybe sacks really are overrated. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick believes pressure, rather than sacks, generates more big plays because of turnovers, namely interceptions.

— Hightower is really improving as a pass rusher as the season progresses. He generated pressure on 27.3 percent of his pass-rush snaps.

— Butler also is on a defensive tear. He has sacks in his last two games.

— Deatrich Wise Jr. rushed the passer 10 times and didn’t generate any pressures.

CB Jason McCourty: four catches on four targets, 81 yards, TD
CB Jonathan Jones: 1-1, 69 yards, TD
CB Stephon Gilmore: 2-4, 38 yards, TD
FS Devin McCourty: 2-3, 25 yards
LB Elandon Roberts: 1-1, 24 yards
CB JC Jackson: 1-2, 15 yards
LB Kyle Van Noy: 1-1, 10 yards
SS Patrick Chung: 2-2, 3 yards

— Jason McCourty had a tough time on Kenny Stills. McCourty eventually was replaced by Jackson in two-cornerback alignments.

Jackson had another strong performance in just the second start of his career. He played 38 snaps to McCourty’s 31.

— Jackson failed to make a tackle in the Dolphins’ last-minute game-winning play. PFF ultimately blamed Jones for that 69-yard touchdown.

— The Patriots are now 0-4 when Gilmore lets up a touchdown. They’re 9-0 when he doesn’t.

LB Kyle Van Noy: four stops
DT Lawrence Guy: two stops
DE Trey Flowers: two stops
DT Adam Butler: two stops
SS Patrick Chung: two stops
DT Malcom Brown: stop
LB Dont’a Hightower: stop
FS Devin McCourty: stop
DE John Simon: stop
DE Adrian Clayborn: stop
CB Jonathan Jones: stop
FS Duron Harmon: missed tackle
LB Elandon Roberts: missed tackle

— Brown and Roberts were PFF’s lowest-graded players against the run. It appeared Brown was pushed around up front, while Roberts struggled to get off blocks at the second level at times. The Patriots let up 9 yards per carry. The Dolphins had their most success running up the right guard. There, they had five carries for 75 yards with a touchdown.

— Van Noy was a defensive standout. He also had a sack and hurry.

LT Trent Brown: two hurries
LG Joe Thuney: two hurries
RT Marcus Cannon: two hurries
QB Tom Brady: sack
RG Shaq Mason: QB hit
RB Rex Burkhead: hurry

— Center David Andrews, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back James White, fullback James Develin and running back Sony Michel pass protected but didn’t allow any pressure.

— Brady got the ball out in 2.22 seconds. His season average is 2.48 seconds.

— Of Brady’s 16 incompletions, four were thrown away, two were dropped, one came when he was hit while he threw and one was batted at the line.

— Wide receiver Julian Edelman had both drops.

— Brady was 1-of-3 on passes over 20 yards for 37 yards with a touchdown.

FB James Develin: 3 yards after contact
RB Sony Michel: 2.3 yards after contact, one forced missed tackle
RB Rex Burkhead: 1 yard after contact
RB James White: .75 yards after contact

— It was a tough day overall for the Patriots’ run game. They averaged just 2.6 yards per carry with 30 carries for 77 yards. They weren’t forcing missed tackles or running through them.

For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to

Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images
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