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Best and Worst: Patriots Offensive PFF Grades at Pittsburgh

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New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (7) runs with the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers safety Damontae Kazee (23) during the first half of an NFL football game on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Pittsburgh. He was the Patriots highest graded offensive player by Pro Football Focus in Week 14 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The New England Patriots were shutout in the second half of their Thursday Night Football game. Fortunately, they had already put 21 points on the board in the first half, which was good enough for a road win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Quarterback Bailey Zappe guided an offense that looked their best in over a month. As they do every week, Pro Football Focus graded all the individual players in the game. New England’s Week 14 grades are a step in the right direction..

PFF Grading System

Before getting into the best and worst Patriots performances from Sunday, a quick review of what the numbers represent. Their are five possible tiers a grade places a player in:

  • 100-90 = Elite
  • 89-85 = Pro Bowler
  • 84-70 = Starter
  • 69-60 = Backup
  • 59-0 = Replaceable

Best of Week 14

WR – JuJu Smith-Schuster (75.0). Just five days after being the lowest-graded offensive player against the Chargers, Smith-Schuster rebounded nicely. With several wide receivers out, the Patriots needed Smith-Schuster to play a big role against his former team, and he did just that. He finished with four receptions for 90 yards.

TE – Hunter Henry (71.3). Henry celebrated him birthday in style, catching two touchdown passes on the day he turned 29. He caught all three of his targets for 40 yards and the two scores. His two penalties were Henry’s only negatives, as both his pass and run block scores were solid.

QB – Bailey Zappe (67.7). New England’s quarterback started the game off strongly. Things stalled out int he second half, but he ended up 19-of-28 for 240 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Zappe rushed three times for 13 yards as well. If not for his pick, certainly Zappe would have graded out even more impressively here. It is the fourth highest grade for a Patriots QB this season.

Worst of Week 14

RT – Mike Onwenu (48.8). Onwenu registered his second rough grade in a row. His transition to right tackle has hit a bump after a very strong start. Onwenu allowed four pressures against the Steelers. His run blocking (58.1) was also on the low side, though the entire offense struggled in that department.

TE – Mike Gesicki (44.8). Of the 15 players to appear in the game on offense for New England, only Ty Montgomery (six) played fewer snaps than Gesicki’s 19. The tight end received zero targets, despite being in for 14 passing plays. Blocking is not his specialty, so when not contributing to the passing game, it’s hard for Gesicki to be a valuable asset.

RG – Sidy Sow (41,0). Sow garnered the third-lowest grade on the team in both run blocking and pass blocking. Pittsburgh chalked up two sacks in the game, and both were credited to Sidy Sow. He allowed another hurry as well.

LT – Trent Brown (39.1). Brown is Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked left tackle in the AFC this season. However, he is not looked 100% since returning from injury. He allowed two pressures en route to earning a team-low 31.2 grade for pass blocking. Brown registered the lowest run blocking grade of the week (40.0) as well.