Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Week 15 Patriots vs Steelers advanced stats: Pittsburgh did not want to challenge Trey Flowers in the running game

By Bernd Buchmasser
December 19, 2018

While the New England Patriots were able to keep their week 15 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers close for four quarters, they ultimately did not make enough plays to come away victoriously. In the end, the visitors fell 17-10 and suffered its fifth defeat of the year. Let’s dig a little deeper into the game and analyze some advanced statistics from the game.

Pass rush/run defense

Despite Pittsburgh respecting the impact Trey Flowers can have on a game, the Patriots’ best front-seven defender still registered a pair of quarterback hits. All in all, he produced one of the team’s better pass rushing performances on Sunday — being part of a unit that was inconsistent on the day: New England pressured Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on just 13 of his 36 drop-backs. While it is not necessarily a bad number, it also was enough to have a profound impact on the opponent’s offensive rhythm.

Defensive rush direction

The Steelers had tremendous success on the ground and the chart above reveals one reason for that: Pittsburgh generally did not want to challenge one of the NFL’s best run defenders, Trey Flowers. Flowers started the game on the defensive right side but was moved over to the left once the Steelers found success there. However, when he switched sides, Pittsburgh exploited the opposite side again. Wherever Flowers was, the Steelers tried to run away from — and in turn attacked the defensive tackles and the non-Flowers defensive edge.

Pass rush separation

As noted above, the Patriots’ pass rushers were not necessarily bad when it came to pressuring Ben Roethlisberger but they also did not have too big of an impact on the Steelers’ overall offensive momentum. The average distance between the pass rushers and the quarterback illustrates this well: New England was oftentimes relatively far away from Roethlisberger. The Steelers’ pass rush, on the other hand, came closer to Tom Brady. And even though none of the numbers stands out, it was still enough to mess with the Patriots’ offensive rhythm at times.

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