There always seems to be that one guy on the Patriots that unexpectedly comes up huge in a postseason game for them, time after time again. In the 2016 AFC Championship Game, that guy was Chris Hogan. A guy who spent the early part of his career bouncing from practice squad to practice squad, to then playing with the Buffalo Bills for four years and having essentially no role with them, to playing the most important game of his career and having a gigantic impact on that game, Hogan has been through a lot. I’m not sure anyone, nor himself, expected to have the type of game that he did this past Sunday, nonetheless he did, and it was quite the sight to see.
Hogan recorded 180 yards and two touchdowns on 9 receptions. He had catches going for 16, 26, 22, 34, 24, and 39 yards in this game. On his first touchdown, he was completely uncovered in the end zone, waving his arms at Brady and caught the 16-yard score. His second was a flea flicker: Brady to Lewis to Brady to Hogan for the 34-yard touchdown. I don’t know about you, but I’m borderline obsessed with trick plays, especially flea flickers. This particular one was a beauty.
Check out how the Steelers completely ignored Hogan’s existence. His nickname is 7/11 for a reason:
The flea flicker:
Hogan set personal records, a franchise and even a league record in his monstrous game in the annihilation of the Steelers. He became the first player in Patriots history to record 180 postseason receiving yards in a single game, breaking Deion Branch’s previous record of 153 yards against the Broncos back in 2006. As for his NFL record, Hogan recorded the most receiving yards by an undrafted player in a playoff game. Not too shabby, for a guy who played only one month of college football. Steve Watson held the previous record with 177 yards with Denver in 1984.
Hogan recorded both his first multi-touchdown and 100-yard receiving games of his career. In just two postseason games with the Patriots, he’s already tallied 275 yards and a couple of TD’s, making his mark in this year’s playoffs. Not to mention, he was pretty banged up in this game, too, dealing with a lingering thigh injury that notably shook him up after a play. A useless but interesting stat: he and Edelman are the first Patriots duo to individually rack up 100 receiving yards in a game since 1963. That summarizes how the night went for New England. All of this playoff success coming after a career regular season for Hogan, as well. This past season, he recorded career highs of receiving touchdowns (4), yards (680), and yards per catch (17.9). It’s pretty insane that he’s already nearing 300 yards in just two games after not even reaching 700 in a full regular season. His YPC leads the league, too.
The answer as to why Hogan had a huge individual game is simple: Pittsburgh played almost strictly zone coverage. They relied solely on their defensive line in an attempt to pressure Brady. That, as you know, totally failed. Their entire secondary was in shambles, and the defense as a whole pretty much gave up after halftime. The number of times they left Hogan open is absurd. It felt like they knew he was going off no matter what and made no effort to try to stop him. Hogan isn’t some unique wideout talent that’s totally unstoppable and uncoverable, so I’m not exactly sure why they did that.
Hogan’s big play and deep threat ability has been crucial in certain situations, and could play a big role in the upcoming Super Bowl. Atlanta’s defense isn’t all that and a bag of chips. They’re ranked 27th in points per game allowed, 28th in passing defense, and 25th in yards allowed per game. That translates to “Brady is going to tear them apart.” Hogan could very well have a field day if this game is anything like the AFCCG. I’m not saying he’ll rack up 180 yards again, but depending on Atlanta’s game plan, he could play another big role. Though, if the Falcons have even an ounce of logic, they’ll probably end up covering Hogan at least a little more than the Steelers did.
As you may know, among many Patriots players this season, this is their first trip to the Super Bowl in their career, and Hogan is one of them. Now, who knows what Belichick’s game plan is going to be in this game, but I know that the players experiencing the postseason for the first time will take advantage of every opportunity they get to be involved in a play. As all Patriots Super Bowls are, this one will most likely be a close game, and both teams will keep it close. New England are going to need every player to step up big time, and I think 7/11 is up for the challenge.