Before Thursday night time, the Patriots had performed 1,018 video games as a franchise.
Not as soon as had they ever misplaced when scoring 25 or extra factors, finishing greater than 70 % of their passes and gaining 400-plus yards.
Before Thursday night time, no crew within the Super Bowl period had ever misplaced when hitting these marks whereas additionally out-gaining its opponent, recording fewer than 60 penalty yards and ending with zero turnovers and no missed subject objectives.
Then Thursday night time occurred, and the Patriots made historical past. How?
Well, the Pats’ elite particular groups allowed their first kick return landing since 2010 within the third quarter and dedicated a disastrous penalty within the fourth that prolonged Minnesota’s eventual game-winning drive. Defensively, the Patriots’ double-teams of Justin Jefferson proved ineffective and finally damage them. And all of the whereas, miraculously, each cross Kirk Cousins delivered beneath strain was caught.
All of that is to say, when mixed with the controversial determination to overturn Hunter Henry’s third-quarter landing, the Patriots’ loss shouldn’t portend poorly down the stretch. Most of the forces that formed Thursday’s sport ought to stay prior to now, relics of soccer unhealthy luck and worse errors amassing mud till NFL lightning strikes once more.
The query is: will that Mac Jones, of a career-high 382 yards, two touchdowns and 0 interceptions, even be left behind?
Because Jones was large. He performed his finest sport in a full calendar yr. He performed like a quarterback who can lead the Patriots into the playoffs, not merely comply with a path paved by their protection and particular groups.
Last week, that’s all Jones did in opposition to the Jets. He was sensible, environment friendly and secure in a 10-3 win. For the primary time all season, he didn’t threat a turnover on a single snap. In Minnesota, Jones constructed off that basis, accessing all ranges of the sector with good reads and higher throws whereas defending the ball once more on each play.
Who’s to say, now absolutely wholesome with an offense coalescing round him after 5 straight begins post-injury, Jones can’t spring for a mid-Year 2 leap?
Well, the case in opposition to Jones begins with Minnesota’s protection. Not solely the uncooked statistics, that are poor, however its scheme.
The Vikings’ two-deep construction allowed Jones to routinely assault the world of the sector he’s most snug: the center. Jones fired his first landing cross between the numbers, a 34-yarder to Nelson Agholor. For the night time, Jones went 10-of-11 for 165 yards and two touchdowns when throwing down the center. He additionally hit 4 swing passes amongst 5 screens.
Additionally, Jones confronted minimal man-to-man protection, opponents’ most well-liked protection in opposition to the Patriots for years. Will upcoming defenses armed with higher cornerbacks permit Jones and his separation-challenged receivers the identical consolation, beginning with Buffalo this Thursday? Unlikely.
But if Jones can someway keep his stage of efficiency in opposition to the Bills, or at worst shield the ball, which may be sufficient for an upset — even when the Patriots want all the different forces that labored in opposition to them in Minnesota to swing of their favor.
Here’s what else movie revealed about Thursday’s loss:
Accurate throw share: 82.9%
Under strain: 3-of-6 for 27 yards, 3 sacks
Against the blitz: 3-of-6 for 32 yards
Behind the road: 8-of-9 for 64 yards
0-9 yards: 11-of-13 for 98 yards
10-19 yards: 5-of-7 for 97 yards, TD
20+ yards: 4-of-6 for 123 yards, TD
Notes: His finest sport of the season, little doubt about it.
Jones hit deep passes to Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor and Hunter Henry. He additionally unloaded the ball in time, averaging 2.5 seconds from snap to throw, per Pro Football Focus. He learn the sector nicely, acquired essential safety and took photographs downfield when accessible.
That’s a successful formulation.
QB Mac Jones
If Jones performs like this in opposition to Buffalo, the Patriots ought to seize certainly one of their two video games with the Bills. Seriously.
OLB Josh Uche
Uche nabbed the Pats’ solely sack of the sport and registered one other strain round 4 tackles and several other snaps in cross protection. The post-hype, midseason breakout feels actual.
DB Myles Bryant
During one landing drive, Bryant allowed a third-and-long conversion to little-used receiver Jalen Reagor after which dedicated a private foul penalty after an incompletion that might’ve rung up a third-and-15 snap. He completed with three tackles.
RB Pierre Strong
His working into the kicker penalty gave the Vikings new life on a key landing drive. Strong was instantly reamed out by Bill Belichick on the sideline.
After Thanksgiving heartbreak, Patriots sit up for Bills showdown: ‘It’s an enormous sport’
- Personnel: 98% of snaps in 11 personnel, 2% in 21H personnel.*
Personnel manufacturing: 7.6 yards/play in 11 personnel, 7.0 yards/play in 21H personnel.
- First down play-calls: 37.5% run (4.3 yards per play), 62.5% cross (6.1 yards per
- Play-action price: 16.7%
- Third downs: 3-10
- Red-zone effectivity: 0-3
- Pressure price allowed: 25.6%
- Broken tackles: Hunter Henry 2, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne
- Sacks allowed: Trent Brown, Mac Jones, Team
- QB hits allowed: James Ferentz
- Hurries allowed: Cole Strange 2, Brown, Mike Onwenu, Yodny Cajuste
- Run stuffs allowed: Team 2
- Penalties: Pierre Strong (working into the kicker)
- Drops: Stevenson
- Any evaluation of the Patriots’ offensive efficiency at Minnesota should begin with a surprisingly robust sport from their banged-up offensive line.
- An O-line that included rookie Cole Strange, James Ferentz and Yodny Cajuste allowed simply 4 pressures earlier than the fourth quarter and run-blocked nicely sufficient for Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris to common 4.33 yards per carry
- The Pats properly despatched assist to proper deal with Cajuste in cross safety on key drives. Stevenson and Hunter Henry took turns chipping Cajuste’s edge rusher, and Stevenson stayed in to pass-block for 11 snaps, his second-highest whole of the season.
- As for his or her scoreless fourth quarter, the Patriots’ early-down points resurfaced whereas they trailed for the ultimate 9:40, horrible timing an offense that struggles in third-and-long and was compelled to cross.
- Minnesota made no important changes, other than calling the sport and pass-rushing with out risk of the run (sometimes by way of using “mug” strain appears with two linebackers hanging over the middle and one third-and-9 blitz that Jones initially survived by extending the play earlier than firing incomplete).
- Jones could not keep away from survive, although, on third-and-7 on the Vikings’ 30-yard line outdoors the two-minute warning. This snap successfully ended the sport.
Patriots want to repair crimson zone woes with the Bills on deck
- For some motive, left deal with Trent Brown cut-block on a long-developing passing play, which allowed defensive finish Danielle Hunter sufficient time to get better from stated reduce block and sack Jones. No different O-lineman cut-block on the play.
- The Pats performed nearly solely from shotgun and three-receiver units, an effort to use favorable matchups in opposition to the Vikings’ backup cornerbacks thrust into beginning roles and stretch their most well-liked zone coverages.
- After bobbling the primary snap, Jones opened with a 26-yard play-action completion to Jakobi Meyers. Yet oddly, offensive play-caller Matt Patricia did not dial up one other play-action cross till the third quarter.
- Considering Jones’ ensuing success off play-action (5-of-7 for 80 yards, TD), the reluctance to name extra of these passes felt like Patricia left yards and factors off the desk.
- And whereas the Patriots kicked subject objectives on three of their subsequent 4 possessions, solely a type of scoring drives coated greater than 23 yards. The offense benefitted mightily from subject place created by Jonathan Jones’ interception and an extended Marcus Jones kick return.
- In the crimson zone, the Pats’ three journeys have been spoiled by a destructive play (Kendrick Bourne’s 7-yard loss on a reverse), Jones taking a nasty sack towards the top of a two-minute drill and two errors (a miscommunication and questionable run name) earlier than Henry’s overturned landing.
- Yes, Henry caught that ball.
- Personnel breakdown: 55% three-safety nickel bundle, 20% three-corner nickel bundle, 16% dime, 6% base, 3% goal-line.**
- Blitz price: 10.5%
- Blitz efficacy: 3.8 yards per play allowed
- Yards per carry allowed: 2.1
- Third downs: 8-15
- Red-zone effectivity: 3-5
- Pressure price: 39.5%
- Interceptions: Jonathan Jones
- Pass deflections: Jonathan Jones 2, Jalen Mills
- Sacks: Josh Uche
- QB hits: Matt Judon 2
- Hurries: Judon 2, Uche, Deatrich Wise 2, Davon Godchaux, Daniel Ekuale, Carl Davis, Jalen Mills, Team
- Run stuffs: Kyle Dugger, Jahlani Tavai
- Missed tackles: Ja’Whaun Bentley 3, Judon, Godchaux
- Penalties: Jonathan Jones (Facemask 2), Myles Bryant (pointless roughness), Judon (offside), Godchaux (holding)
- The Patriots’ lack of ability to include Justin Jefferson killed them, as Jefferson caught a number of passes on three scoring drives, together with his landing to start out the sport. He completed with 9 catches for 139 yards and a landing.
- Despite his one interception of a Kirk Cousins overthrow, and one other dropped choose, Jonathan Jones was not the match for Jefferson the teaching employees believed him to be. The Pats began sending regular doubles at Jefferson to assist Jones within the second half.
- That additional consideration damage them, although, when Minnesota executed a play-call on Adam Thielen’s game-clinching landing it had been ready to make use of all sport. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell defined post-game he had beforehand known as that play, a play-action cross with two deep crisscrossing routes, a number of occasions solely to have Cousins try of it mid-game.
- The motive was Minnesota needed it in opposition to a particular look from the Patriots protection. The Pats lastly offered stated take a look at their 15-yard line with beneath 10 minutes left, when Devin McCourty aligned within the deep center of the sector inside a single-high shell and man-to-man protection throughout the board.
- As the play developed, McCourty tailed Jefferson’s crossing route headed proper — which finally drew three defenders — and that created a vacated deep left half of the top zone, the place Thielen ran to for a landing.
- Their protection points apart, the Patriots merely could not rattle Cousins, who went 13-of-14 for 168 yards, two touchdowns and a choose when beneath strain. Those numbers are preposterously good, particularly contemplating how persistently the Pats reached him for hurries.
Why did the Patriots dominant protection break down at Minnesota?
- The Vikings’ plan to guard Cousins had some finer factors, however a significant key early on was working straight at Matt Judon. Minnesota known as 5 of its first six runs in Judon’s course, a standard tactic to put on down elite cross rushers.
- Later, the Vikings faked hand-offs away from Judon and bootlegged Cousins in the wrong way on play-action passes that always resulted briefly throws to the flat or over the center.
- To counteract these passes, defensive play-caller Steve Belichick started sending slot blitzes within the third quarter, when Jalen Mils and Kyle Dugger registered pressures dashing at Cousins whereas he had his again turned to them for many of those bootleg performs.
- Still, Cousins was insanely environment friendly off play-action, going 15-of-16 for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He repeatedly took simple cash from the Patriots on early downs, when their smooth zone protection was exploitable versus a lot of these appears and throws to Jefferson.
- And the Vikings’ play-action success was not tied to any kind of dashing dominance. Dalvin Cook averaged 1.9 yards per carry.
- Credit to defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy for one more robust efficiency clogging the center, albeit in opposition to a subpar offensive line. Their play offset a nasty night time from Ja’Whaun Bentley, as did Raekwon McMillan’s pair of TFLs. McMillan has performed nicely in three straight video games.
- Defensive again Myles Bryant noticed prolonged run at security, the place the Patriots used a rotation round Devin McCourty. Adrian Phillips was the final to see the sector.
- Steve Belichick properly banked on his entrance 4 producing adequate strain and known as simply 4 blitzes all night time. Though, sadly for the Pats, these blitzes proved far more efficient than commonplace rushes, because the Vikes had only a 25% success price in opposition to them and averaged 3.8 yards per play.
Statistics for passing depth, damaged tackles and missed tackles courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
*11 personnel = one working again, one tight finish; 12 personnel = one working again, two tight ends; 21H = two halfbacks, one tight finish.
**Base protection = 4 defensive backs; nickel protection = 5 defensive backs; dime protection = six defensive backs; goal-line protection = three defensive backs.