Let’s take a brief look at some statistical notes ahead of the AFC Divisional Round playoff game between the Chargers and Patriots.

Chargers Run Game vs Patriots run defense

  • A knee injury forced Melvin Gordon to miss weeks 13-15 and since returning he has not been nearly as dynamic, even before suffering a second knee injury last week. Pre-injury (weeks 1-12) he averaged 5.2 yards per attempt. Post injury, he’s at 3.2.

Gordon’s knee injury is clearly impacting his play, as he has dropped from 3.3 yards after contact per attempt pre-injury to 1.7 since. His 3.2 yards after contact per attempt ranked sixth in the NFL this season and his 24 percent broken tackle percentage is second.

    • Austin Ekeler has also been terrific at breaking tackles and gaining extra yardage.
      • His broken tackle percentage is just outside of the top-10 among backs at 21 percent (11th).
      • His 3.8 yards after contact per attempt is the second highest rate in the league behind only Cleveland’s Nick Chubb (4.3 per attempt).
    • Ekeler’s ability to break tackles and gain extra yards after initial contact have been imperative to his success. 73 percent of Ekeler’s rush yards this season have come after contact, the fifth-highest mark in the league.
    • These two backs have combined to break free of opposing tacklers 64 times combined which is tied for the second most for a pair of teammates, behind only Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis who combined for 89.

Chargers’ Passing Game vs Patriots passing defense

      • The Patriots play more man coverage than any other team in the NFL. Here is Keenan Allen’s target share against each defense:
        • Zone: 24% (receiver rating 120)
        • Man: 30% (96)
      • Below are Rivers splits vs man and zone:
Defense Comp % On-Tgt % Y/A IQR TD% INT%
Man 60% 75% 7.9 104 8.1 3.2
Zone 75% 86% 9.4 112 5.3 1.8
      • The Chargers’ do a good job of involving their running backs in the passing game, as all of their backs combine for 65.5 yards a game, most in the league
        • The Patriots rank 23rd, allowing 46.1 yards per game through the air to opposing running backs, but since week 9 they have only allowed 27.0 (5th in NFL).
      • If the Chargers fall behind, Mike Williams is an interesting player to watch. When trailing, no one has a higher receiver rating in the NFL than Williams’ 153 (minimum 25 targets when trailing) (if we lower the minimum to 20, Chris Hogan of the Patriots rates higher).
        • This is particularly interesting because of how the Patriots line up their defensive backs. Stephon Gilmore, their top cornerback, is generally tasked with shutting down a team’s No. 2 receiver while a combination of another corner and safety (like the McCourty twins) generally double team the other team’s top receiver.
        • When Stephon Gilmore is targeted in coverage while the Patriots are winning, he has allowed a rating against of 101, which is 10th best among defensive backs who have been targeted at least 20 times while defending a lead.

Patriots’ Run Game vs Chargers Run Defense

      • The Patriots have a reputation as a passing offense
        • However, over the last three seasons the Patriots are the only team to be top-five league wide in running back rush attempts, finishing second this year with 24 attempts per game
      • The Patriots’ are the best team in the league at spreading out where they run the ball, going to both sides and up the middle almost perfectly evenly. Rush attempts to each side listed below:
        • Left Outside and Left Off Tackle: 163, 34% of runs
        • Left Inside, Middle, and Right Inside: 163, 34% of runs
        • Right Outside and Right Off Tackle: 152, 32% of runs

Patriots’ Passing Game vs Chargers’ Pass Defense

    • Rob Gronkowski has been exceptionally quiet this season through a mix of missing time with injuries and minimal involvement when healthy.
      • The Chargers’ have allowed the second fewest yards per pass attempt against tight ends (6.3) and the second lowest receiver rating (66)
    • James White has a very favorable matchup. This season the Patriots targeted running backs 157 times, more than any other team, with 123 targets going to White.
      • The Chargers have allowed 7.0 yards per attempt to running backs this season which ranks 25th in the NFL
    • Julian Edelman had a fantastic 2016 season, but after missing 20 consecutive regular season games, there were question marks about how productive he could be.
      • Since his return in Week 5, he ranks first on the Patriots in targets (107) and receptions (74). Those numbers rank sixth and eighth in the NFL respectively among wide receivers.
      • To illustrate how consistently active Edelman has been with the Patriots, below is a list of the players with the most 5-reception games in the playoffs for one team since 1950
        • Jerry Rice, 14 with SF (another 3 with OAK)
        • Julian Edelman, 11 with NE
        • Michael Irvin, 11 with DAL
        • Reggie Wayne, 11 with IND

Independent Quarterback Rating is Sports Info Solutions’ proprietary quarterback metric. It builds on the traditional Passer Rating formula by accounting for results that are outside of the quarterback’s control – dropped passes, dropped interceptions, throwaways, etc. – to form a better benchmark of QB value.