A potentially fatal flaw has been exposed in the New England Patriots’ defense. And now the Patriots have nine weeks to fix it before the games really count.
The Patriots’ run defense simply isn’t very good, and no one really noticed or cared through the first eight weeks of the season because New England was getting out to big leads and forcing the opposing team to pass. The Patriots encouraged the opposition to run. That would drain the clock and get the game over with faster.
But the Patriots faced an early deficit Sunday night in their 37-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. And they were never able to overcome it because their defense wasn’t able to get off the field. The Patriots have the pieces in place to have a stout run defense. Perhaps they simply needed to see their weakness exploited before it became a priority to fix it.
Let’s get into this week’s takeaways and metrics. All advanced stats via Pro Football Focus.
LT Marshall Newhouse: sack, QB hit, two hurries
LG Joe Thuney: QB hit, hurry
C Ted Karras: clean
RG Shaq Mason: hurry
RT Marcus Cannon: hurry
QB Tom Brady: QB hit
— The Patriots’ offensive line actually did an OK job of protecting Brady. He was under pressure on 29.2 percent of dropbacks, the same as the Patriots’ season average. His 14.3% sack rate was also pretty much on pace with the season average. Brady’s pressure rate is fourth lowest out of 31 qualified quarterbacks this season and his sack rate is seventh-lowest. Pass protection is an overblown concern this season, but run blocking is a legitimate issue.
— Tight end Ben Watson and running backs James White, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead also didn’t allow any pressure.
— The Patriots will be getting left tackle Isaiah Wynn back on the field in Week 12.
— PFF didn’t blame specific players for the Ravens’ second sack and four other QB hits.
— Tom Brady went 30-of-46 for 285 yards with a touchdown and interception.
— Of Brady’s 16 incompletions, four were thrown away and one was dropped. Tight end Ben Watson dropped the pass.
— Brady was 2-of-7 for 55 yards with an interception on deep passes. He went just 4-of-12 for 26 yards with the pick and two sacks while pressured.
— Brady got rid of the ball in 2.75 seconds, on average. That’s up from his season-long average of 2.48 seconds.
— Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was a clear standout with 10 catches on 14 targets for 81 yards with a touchdown in just his second game with the Patriots. Julian Edelman caught 10 passes for 89 yards but also lost a key fumble in the second half.
— If Sanu can continue to develop, that’s a very clear boost to the Patriots’ offense. He was great Sunday night.
— Brady, the Patriots’ offensive line and Edelman and Sanu played every offensive snap. Phillip Dorsett missed just one snap. That was rookie Jakobi Meyers’ only play. The Patriots stayed in 11 personnel for the entire game.
Sony Michel: 3.5 yards after contact per carry, one forced missed tackle
James White: 2.22 yards after contact per carry, one forced missed tackle
Rex Burkhead: 3 yards after contact per carry, no forced missed tackles
— White ran particularly well Sunday night with nine carries for 38 yards with a touchdown. Michel and Burkhead each managed 18 yards on four carries. Ten of Michel’s 18 yards came on one carry. It will be interesting to see if White gets more carries moving forward. He might be a better fit for the Patriots’ fullback-less offense than Michel.
— Michel only played 15 snaps to White’s 28 and Burkhead’s 24.
FS Devin McCourty: three catches on six targets, 39 yards, TD
LB Dont’a Hightower: 5-5, 39 yards
LB Elandon Roberts: 2-2, 26 yards
CB Stephon Gilmore: 2-2, 22 yards
SS Terrence Brooks: 1-1, 18 yards
SS Patrick Chung: 2-2, 10 yards
CB Jason McCourty: 2-3, 9 yards
— Pass coverage was a strength for the Patriots on Sunday night, though that could be because Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson hardly had to throw the ball.
— Cornerbacks Jonathan Jones and JC Jackson weren’t even targeted. Linebacker Jamie Collins also wasn’t targeted.
— Gilmore mostly shadowed rookie wide receiver Hollywood Brown, who caught three passes for 48 yards, including a shovel pass at the line of scrimmage.
DT Lawrence Guy: sack, QB hit, hurry
OLB Kyle Van Noy: QB hit, hurry
DT Adam Butler: two hurries
OLB Chase Winovich: two hurries
OLB Shilique Calhoun: two hurries
OLB John Simon: hurry
DT Danny Shelton: hurry
OLB Dont’a Hightower: hurry
DT Byron Cowart: hurry
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: hurry
CB JC Jackson: hurry
— Calhoun only received five pass-rush snaps. Winovich only got six pass-rush snaps. They were productive on a per snap basis. Calhoun also had a costly neutral zone infraction penalty that resulted in a Ravens touchdown.
— The Patriots pressured Jackson on 13 of his 26 snaps. They had a hard time bringing him down once he was in the backfield. He went 6-of-11 for 52 yards with a touchdown while under pressure. The Patriots blitzed just seven times. He was 5-of-6 for 63 yards with a touchdown when blitzed.
LB Dont’a Hightower: four stops
DT Lawrence Guy: three stops
DT Danny Shelton: two stops
LB Jamie Collins: two stops
FS Devin McCourty: two stops
SS Terrence Brooks: two stops
LB Kyle Van Noy: two stops, missed tackle
OLB Chase Winovich: stop
DT Byron Cowart: stop
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: stop
CB Jason McCourty stop
CB Jonathan Jones: stop
CB Stephon Gilmore: missed tackle
LB Elandon Roberts: two missed tackles
— The Patriots need to figure something out against the run. Running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards gashed the Patriots’ defense for 143 yards on 22 carries.
— Quarterback Lamar Jackson scored two touchdowns, but the Patriots certainly could have done a worse job containing him. He averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on the game.
— The Ravens had their most success running straight up the gut. They carried the ball 12 times for 112 yards with a touchdown behind the left guard, center or right guard. Shelton, Guy and Butler must do better holding their ground, and Hightower, Collins, Bentley and Roberts have to do a better job filling rushing lanes.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.
Thumbnail photo via Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports Images