Super Bowl LIII Takeaways: How Patriots’ Pass Rush Pressured Rams


New England Patriots fans are not allowed to complain about their defense for at least eight months. Sorry, these are the rules.

One would have thought the sky was falling one month into the Patriots’ 2018 season after they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions. Fast-forward four months and they submitted one of the greatest defensive performances in Super Bowl history Sunday when they beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3.

Here are our takeaways from Super Bowl LIII:

All stats via Pro Football Focus.

LB Kyle Van Noy: sack, QB hit, three hurries
LB Dont’a Hightower: two sacks, QB hit, hurries
DT Lawrence Guy: QB hit, three hurries
DE Trey Flowers: QB hit, two hurries
CB Jonathan Jones: sack
DE Adrian Clayborn: QB hit
DE Deatrich Wise: hurry
DT Malcom Brown: hurry
DT Adam Butler: hurry
DT Danny Shelton: hurry
FS Duron Harmon: hurry

— The Patriots generated a pressure rate of 52.3 percent. They generated pressure on 50 percent or more snaps in all three postseason games.

— Van Noy and Guy had the highest pressure percentage on the team.

— Harmon brought pressure on cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s interception.

— The Patriots blitzed 20 times. They sacked Goff on two of those 20 plays. Gilmore’s interception also came on a blitz.

CB Jonathan Jones: five catches on nine targets for 81 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore: 4-8, 48 yards, INT, PBU
CB JC Jackson: 2-3, 34 yards
LB Dont’a Hightower: 2-2, 19 yards, PBU
LB Kyle Van Noy: 1-1, 19 yards
CB Jason McCourty: 2-5, 18 yards, PBU
DE John Simon: 1-1, 8 yards
FS Devin McCourty: 1-2, 3 yards
LB Albert McClellan: 1-1, -1 yard
SS Patrick Chung: PBU

— The Patriots used Jones at safety and Chung at linebacker. Jackson mostly covered tight ends. The Patriots also stayed in zone coverage more than usual. It was a major departure from what the Patriots usually run on defense, which is heavy man.

— Gilmore had a tough matchup against Brandin Cooks but held up well. The Patriots doubled Robert Woods often with Jones.

— Jason McCourty made an incredible play to break up a pass intended for Cooks when he was wide open in the end zone. The McCourty twins are still pretty darn fast.

DE Deatrich Wise: three stops
DE Trey Flowers: three stops
LB Kyle Van Noy: two stops
DT Danny Shelton: two stops
LB Dont’a Hightower: two stops, two missed tackles
DT Lawrence Guy: stop
FS Devin McCourty: stop
CB Jonathan Jones: stop
LB Albert McClellan: stop
CB Stephon Gilmore: stop, missed tackle

— The Rams rushed for 62 yards on 18 carries for just 3.4 yards per pop. The Patriots’ run defense became very good by the end of the season.

— Shelton was a monster up front. He was far more disruptive than usual.

— Neither Todd Gurley nor C.J. Anderson averaged more than 2 yards after contact per carry.

LT Trent Brown: two hurries
RT Marcus Cannon: two hurries
QB Tom Brady: sack
C David Andrews: QB hit
LG Joe Thuney: hurry
RG Shaq Mason: hurry

— The Patriots limited defensive tackle Aaron Donald to just one QB hit and one hurry. He was basically a non-factor.

— Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, running backs Sony Michel and James White and fullback James Develin didn’t allow any pressures.

— Quarterback Tom Brady went 21-of-34 for 262 yards with an interception. Among those 13 incompletions, three were dropped passes and one came as Brady was hit while he threw the ball.

— Wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan and running back Sony Michel each dropped a pass.

— Brady was 2-of-5 on deep passes for 54 yards.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson: three forced missed tackles, 7.5 yards after contact per attempt
RB Sony Michel: two forced missed tackles, 3.1 yards after contact per attempt
RB Rex Burkhead: one forced missed tackle, 4 yards after contact per attempt
RB James White: 1.5 yards after contact per attempt
WR Julian Edelman: no yards after contact per attempt

— Patterson, as usual, was the Patriots’ most productive ball-carrier per snap.

— The Patriots quietly rushed for 154 yards on 32 attempts for 4.8 yards per carry. That includes Brady’s two kneel-downs for -2 yards.

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

New England Patriots strong safety Duron Harmon
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