Here are some noteworthy statistics to take a look at following the New England Patriots 41-28 victory over the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round.
1. Tom Brady was 11-16 when throwing it to the left side of the field, and all three of his passing touchdowns came on that side of the field. The Patriots two biggest plays on offense were a 33-yard touchdown pass to Shane Vereen and a 47-yard TD to Wes Welker, and they both came on the left side of the field.
2. Brady was also as pinpoint as ever on the rights side of the field with a 9-13 day that includes three catches on four targets for 60 yards for Aaron Hernandez. The Pats star TE certainly worked the left side of the Texans secondary to perfection.
3. The Houston Texans ran it up the middle 12 times, and they came away with just 26 yards. That’s barely over two yards per carry, which is just an atrocious total for Arian Foster, and that credit mostly goes to Vince Wilfork who had another dominant display. That will be key next week going up against Marshal Yanda and the Baltimore Ravens, but he beat up on a solid left guard in this game in Wade Smith. Wilfork has put on the best five straight weeks of any DT this season, and he has probably been the best DT in the NFL this year.
4. All five of Vince Wilfork’s tackles were, naturally, in run defense and all five of them were considered “successful” plays.
5. Steve Gregory was all over the place in this game with ten tackles and a pass deflection, and all seven of his tackles in pass defense ended up being short gains for the Texans offense. Five of them actually came in the middle of the field. Gregory’s three tackles in run defense were all in different zones of the defense, which is also impressive. The role that best suits the Patriots safety is one closer to the line of scrimmage where he can roam free and make plays, and this is exactly what he did as a backup with the San Diego Chargers. Gregory’s coverage leaves something to be desired and he does get beat deep a little too often, but he showed that he is perfect as a playmaking SS.
6. The Pro Football Focus gave Nate Solder a +5.6 grade for his play against the Texans, and it mostly came on the strength of some excellent run blocking. The Patriots rushed for 52 yards on four carries off of the left tackle, and Solder has blossomed into one of the league’s most dominant tackles in run blocking. He’s also a solid pass protector.
7. PFF graded J.J. Watt negatively (but barely at -0.1) for the first time this season, and it was clearly the worst game Watt played. He only managed to hit Brady once in the game (a half-sack), and his impact in the running game was minimal. Sounds like the Pats right side of the line has Watt’s number, whereas the rest of the NFL has no idea how to stop the league’s best defensive player.
8. Wes Welker did drop two catches, but those eight catches he made for 131 yards (especially that 47-yarder) definitely atone for those two dropped passes. He hasn’t shown as good hands this season as he has in years past, but I just view that as an anomaly. He is still playing some great football, and he and Brady have that connection going perfectly.
9. Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones make a high impact on the game against the run, and Ninko also picked off a pass and tipped another (in addition to the great play he made on the on-side kick). However, they need to do a better job of generating pressure, and that goes mainly to Jones. He was shut down by Duane Brown, but to be fair Brown is one of the best LTs in the league and Jones is just a rookie. Still, Bryant McKinnie is actually playing some high level football since the Ravens took a flier on him, and he is doing whatever he can to shed the “overrated” tag and right his career again with two strong games. When Dont’a Hightower is your best pass rusher in the first playoff game, then you better hope the other guys are just rusty. Based on how the Pats pass rush was against the Miami Dolphins, I think (and hope) that’s the case. But the Ravens offensive line is clearly better than the Dolphins, so that’s something that needs to be put under the magnifying glass.
10. The New England Patriots averaged 13.8 yards per reception. Who said Tom Brady can’t throw it deep?
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