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Best and Worst: Patriots Defensive PFF Grades at Pittsburgh

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New England Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills (2) gestures while warming up prior to an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. Mills was Pro Football Focus highest graded defensive player for Week 14 (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The New England Patriots defense didn’t allow 10 or fewer points for the first time in ages. They did, however, do enough to help earn the Patriots a 21-18 win over the Steelers. Another solid week was met with excellent grades for quick a few New England defenders. As they do every week, Pro Football Focus graded all the individual players in the game. A look at the best and worst performers on the Patriots defense, according to PFF, in Week 14.

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

New England had only four players score over 80 and eight grade out at 70 or higher. Pro Football Focus was impressed with the overall effort from the Patriots defensive unit.

Best of Week 14

S – Jalen Mills (85.4). Mills played in 26 snaps on defense. His tackling graded as the second highest on the team. Mills’ coverage was also second highest, among all Patriots who played at least 10 snaps in coverage. He finished with seven tackles, including one TFL.

CB – Jonathan Jones (84.4). Jones’ coverage grade (85.1) was highest on the team. He broke up a huge fourth down play in the fourth quarter that helped seal the win for New England. He racked up five solo tackles, but did had have one missed tackle. Another solid game for the veteran, who was recently named the Patriots’ Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee.

CB – Alex Austin (83.4). Normally a player only playing 13 snaps would be a footnote, but it was Austin’s first game being active for New England and he impressed. He was only targeted once and almost ended up with an interception. Excellent Patriots debut for Alex Austin.

LB – Mack Wilson, Sr. (83.3). If Week 13 against the Chargers, Wilson was Pro Football Focus’ highest graded defensive player. Wilson had another excellent game against the Steelers. He finished with three stops, two tackles, two pressures, a sack, and a batted ball. He has really come on strong in recent weeks.

CB – Myles Bryant (79.1). Pittsburgh completed only 2-of-4 passes with Bryant in coverage. He had four tackles and two pressures. A missed tackle prevented this score from being even higher.

LB Jahlani Tavai, LB Anfernee Jennings, and DE Deatrich Wise earned high marks as well.

Worst of Week 14

DT – Davon Godchaux (57.9). Godchaux recorded two tackles, a hurry and a stop. His pass run and run defense grades were both below 60, which his tackling was below 70.

DL – Christian Barmore (57.2). Five hurries helped Barmore record a decent grade in pass rush. He recorded one tackle, but also had a missed tackle. His tackling grade was second lowest on the team. It was Barmore’s lowest grade from Pro Football Focus since Week 5.

DE – Keion White (57.2). The rookie edge defender did a nice job, but is struggling finishing off sacks. His pass rush grade of 51.4 brought down his overall score significantly. White had a QB hit, one hurry, and assisted on one tackle. After amassing 7.5 sacks and 14 TFL at Georgia Tech last season, he has 1.0 sack and three TFL in New England.

LB – Josh Uche (49.1). Uche’s coverage grade was only 29.7 against Pittsburgh, contributing to his low grade. He allowed one catch for 14 yards as the primary defender. He had no tackles. Uche did have a hurry in pass rush.

CB – J.C. Jackson (29.3). If J.C. Jackson‘s interception had stood instead of being called back for defensive pass interference, this grade would obviously have been much higher. He was called for two penalties on Thursday night. He also got beat by Dione Johnson for the Steelers first touchdown. The NFL Passer Rating with Jackson in coverage was 139.2.