Rob Gronkowski was the Patriots’ fourth safety against the Dolphins

The New England Patriots came up on the short end of their week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins. A mistake-filled performance that culminated in a last-second Hail Mary play, allowed the home team to prevail 34-33 and caused New England its fourth loss of the season. Let’s take a look at some of the snap count numbers of the contest to get am impression of how the Patriots used their personnel.

New England set new season-marks for snaps played

When the Patriots played the Dolphins in week four, they had their offense on the field for 81 snaps and their defense for 49 — numbers that stood as the season highs and lows, respectively, until yesterday. New England’s offense played 82 snaps in Miami on Sunday, while the defense played just 47. Despite the Patriots having an advantage when it came to snaps and actual on-field time (35:14 to 24:46) the team failed to take control of the game.

J.C. Jackson continued his climb up the depth chart

Last week, J.C. Jackson saw extensive snaps as the Patriots’ number three cornerback. Versus Miami, the undrafted rookie continued his development and actually played the second most snaps at the position behind only Stephon Gilmore (48 of 48; 100%): Jackson was on the field for 38 snaps (79%), compared to usual number two corner Jason McCourty’s 31 (65%). The fourth cornerback, Jonathan Jones, played only 11 snaps (23%).

The safety usage was interesting

Over the first 11 games of the season, strong safety Patrick Chung rarely left the field. The last two weeks, however, his on-field time went down: he played 85% of snaps against the Minnesota Vikings last week and only 77% (37 of 48) in Miami. Meanwhile, Devin McCourty (47; 98%) played all snaps but one — missing the ill-fated Hail Mary. Duron Harmon (31; 65%) served as the number three safety, while tight end Rob Gronkowski (1; 2%) actually was the number four. Obi Melifonwu did not see the field despite being active, an odd decision from afar.

The Patriots’ offensive roles are etched in stone

The quarterback and offensive line positions are set in stone and so are three of New England’s offensive skill spots: the aforementioned Rob Gronkowski (78 of 82; 95%) rarely leaves the field as do wide receivers Julian Edelman (75; 91%) and Josh Gordon (71; 87%). The rest of the group — including the running backs — are subbed on and off the field depending on the play call and situation. Gronkowski, Edelman and Gordon, on the other hand, are part of nearly all personnel packages.

The defensive tackle position was pretty much a two-man show

While Adam Butler did play a quarter of defensive snaps (12 of 48; 25%), the defensive tackle position was pretty much in the hands of two men yesterday: Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown both played 31 of a possible 48 snaps (65%) as the one-two punch in the middle of the defensive line. Usually a stout front, the duo had a tough time especially against Miami’s running attack. Run-stuffer Danny Shelton, meanwhile, was inactive for his second straight game.

Eight players were on the field for 100% of the snaps

Six offensive players were on the field for all 82 snaps: quarterback Tom Brady as well as the Patriots’ starting offensive line. On defense, meanwhile, only two players went wire-to-wire: cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was listed as questionable entering the contest, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy played all 48 snaps on this side of the ball. The aforementioned Devin McCourty (47; 98%) and linebacker Dont’a Hightower (43; 90%) also played more than 90% of defensive snaps.

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