The New England Patriots didn’t play their best game on Sunday, but they were able to get a 23-16 win on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game that really shouldn’t have been that close. To be fair, they were missing three key players on defense in Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Brandon Spikes, in addition to the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
1. Tom Brady averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt and had a meager 73.9 QB Rating, but he also had a 55.5 TQBR (average is 50) and his WPA, EPA, and Success Rate totals all placed him a bit above the average compared to other quarterbacks that week. Once Brady and the offense began to settle down, things turned around for the Patriots. The main problem is that the offensive line was mauled by the Jaguars and allowed nine quarterback hits.
2. Wes Welker was once again the main source of help for Tom Brady, and he played an excellent game with ten receptions on 11 targets for 88 yards. He was Brady’s safety net when the pass rush was at its worse, and Welker finished 8th and 10th among wide receivers in Week 16 in WPA and EPA respectively. 76.9% of the plays he was involved in were “successful”.
3. Seventh in the NFL this past week in both WPA and EPA, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui made two crucial receptions. He had a huge 32-yard reception, in addition to a clutch 14-yard catch on third down that set up the game-clinching TD pass to Welker. Big Mike was PFF’s player of the game for the Pats-Jags tilt after receiving a +3.8 grade mainly due to some more incredible work in blocking.
4. PFF (article above) did not rate Aaron Hernandez as kindly, and he received a “well-deserved” -2.6 grade in a rare off game for the star tight end. He was negated by a great game plan and an even better Jaguars pass defense against TEs, as Hernandez caught just one pass. But he also inflicted damage upon himself with a drop and an illegal motion penalty that offset his own reception.
5. Dont’a Hightower led the team with five successful plays and recorded three tackles on run defense in the middle of the field.
6. When running it up the gut, Stevan Ridley gained 35 yards on just six carries. A lot of that credit should go to center Ryan Wendell as well.
7. Chandler Jones and the New England Patriots pass rush turned up the heat towards the end of the game, with Jones in particular turning it up in crunch time. Despite being mitigated almost completely by Jaguars solid left tackle Eugene Monroe in run defense, Jones made a big impact as a pass rusher whilst bringing consistent pressure on Chad Henne in the third and fourth quarters. It looks like he is fully healthy again.
8. Chad Henne went just 8 for 17 on throws towards the middle of the field.
9. Marquice Cole led the team with two tackles for loss and was one of five players on the team with at least six tackles. However, most of those tackles (and Kyle Arrington’s) came in pass coverage. The good news is that Cole was never truly burned and came away with a pick to help negate some of the plays he allowed in coverage.
10. On short throws to the right of the field, Brandon Lloyd (five targets), Deion Branch (one), and Brandon Lloyd (two) caught everything thrown at them. Meanwhile, the five targets that went to Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez were incomplete passes.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.