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James White had 16(!) Targets in AFCCG

It wasn’t shocking that Patriots running back James White played a big role in the AFC Championship Game. In my preview article at the Washington Post, I wrote that the Broncos were well-equipped to pressure Brady, which could lead to a lot of passes to his safety valve. Of course, I was thinking of a different safety valve:

But the difference-maker may wind up being Julian Edelman, who is Brady’s security blanket against the pressure. Without a pass-catching running back like a Shane Vereen (now with the Giants) or Dion Lewis (36 receptions in six games before tearing his ACL), Brady looks to Edelman as his hot receiver to understand how to get open quickly against the blitz.

As it turns out, White was only able to convert 5 of his 16 targets into receptions, for a paltry 45 yards. It’s fair to wonder if a Vereen or Lewis would have been more productive, including on deep throws (where Tom Brady went 0/5 on passes intended for White). To be fair, some of those “targets” were Targets In Name Only: they were throwaways as Brady was under pressure. But still, it turned out to be a wildly inefficient game. Pro-Football-Reference.com has target data going back to 1992, and White gained the fewest receiving yards in playoff history among the 51 players with 15+ targets in a game.

But the bigger shock is that James White — James White(!) — had 16 targets in a playoff game. The Patriots running back averaged just 29 receiving yards per game, so he’s hardly the guy you expect to receive 16 targets in a playoff game. As it turns out, that’s the third lowest number among the 51 players with 15+ targets in a playoff game.

RkPlayerYearTmOppBoxscoreTgtRecYdsTDYr Rec YdsYr GRec Yd/G
1Joseph Addai2007INDSDGBoxscore1596703641524.3
2Ernie Mills1994PITSDGBoxscore16810603841525.6
3James White2015NWEDENBoxscore1654504101429.3
4Andre Hastings1995PITDALBoxscore15109805021631.4
5Matt Forte2010CHIGNBBoxscore15109005471634.2
6Jordy Nelson2010GNBPITBoxscore15914015821636.4
7Robert Brooks1994GNBDALBoxscore15813806481640.5
8Ronnie Harmon1995SDGINDBoxscore171013306731642.1
9Jermaine Kearse2015SEACARBoxscore151111026851642.8
10Darren Sproles2011NORSFOBoxscore191511817101644.4
11J.J. Birden1993KANHOUBoxscore1566017211645.1
12David Patten2001NWEOAKBoxscore16810707491646.8
13Owen Daniels2012HOUNWEBoxscore1598107161547.7
14Justin McCareins2004NYJSDGBoxscore1588707701648.1
15Willie Richardson1968BALNYJBoxscore1565806981449.9
16O.J. McDuffie1995MIABUFBoxscore171115418191651.2
17Shawn Jefferson1997NWEPITBoxscore15910408411652.6
18Justin Gage2008TENBALBoxscore171013506511254.3
19Pierre Garcon2009INDNYJBoxscore151115117651454.6
20Derrick Mason2000TENBALBoxscore1578808951655.9
21Shannon Sharpe1993DENRAIBoxscore151315619951662.2
22Marques Colston2013NORSEABoxscore161114419431562.9
23Bert Emanuel1995ATLGNBBoxscore17662010391664.9
24Isaac Bruce2003STLCARBoxscore16711609811565.4
25Julian Edelman2013NWEDENBoxscore151089110561666.0
26T.Y. Hilton2013INDKANBoxscore1813224210831667.7
27Jordan Reed2015WASGNBBoxscore17912019521468.0
28Martavis Bryant2015PITDENBoxscore15915407651169.5
29Andre Johnson2011HOUBALBoxscore1581110492770.3
30James Lofton1991BUFWASBoxscore17792010721571.5
31Darrell Jackson2004SEASTLBoxscore1812128111991674.9
32Julian Edelman2015NWEKANBoxscore16101000692976.9
33Michael Irvin1994DALSFOBoxscore2612192212411677.6
34Cris Carter1999MINSTLBoxscore157106112411677.6
35Rob Gronkowski2015NWEDENBoxscore158144111761578.4
36Cris Carter1994MINCHIBoxscore16861112561678.5
37Mike Wallace2010PITGNBBoxscore16989112571678.6
38Jerry Rice1988SFOCINBoxscore1511215113061681.6
39Ed McCaffrey2000DENBALBoxscore15875013171682.3
40Reggie Wayne2012INDBALBoxscore189114013551684.7
41Eric Moulds1998BUFMIABoxscore159240113681685.5
42Roddy White2008ATLARIBoxscore161184113821686.4
43Michael Irvin1996DALMINBoxscore15810309621187.5
44Emmanuel Sanders2014DENINDBoxscore15746014041687.8
45Demaryius Thomas2013DENSEABoxscore1813118114301689.4
46Victor Cruz2011NYGSFOBoxscore1710142015361696.0
47Jimmy Smith1999JAXTENBoxscore165920163616102.3
48Marvin Harrison1999INDTENBoxscore185650166316103.9
49Calvin Johnson2011DETNORBoxscore15122112168116105.1
50Herman Moore1995DETPHIBoxscore1571331168616105.4
51Jerry Rice1995SFOGNBBoxscore17111170184816115.5

It’s pretty weird seeing Jordy Nelson so high on the list, but hey, he was not yet a star back in 2010. Anyway, what stands out to you?

  • Richie

    Do you think White was being used as a safety valve by plan or necessity? (Did Belichick go into the game expecting to pass to White a lot?)

    • Daniel Menezes

      I think the plan wasn’t to use him that much, but Edelman / Amendola weren’t getting open quickly through the doubles and bracket coverage the Broncos were using against one or both, and when they put White out-wide, the Broncos just sent a LB over (Marshall, generally), and the Patriots saw this as a potential mismatch.

      If Brady was a little more accurate, or White a bit better at adjusting to those wheel / go routes, they might have actually hit a few plays.

  • Nuclear Badger

    It was nice to see Jordy Nelson’s Super Bowl performance on the list – when Jordy became JORDY!