The New England Patriots figured all along they had the perfect way to exploit the type of defense they anticipated the Pittsburgh Steelers playing in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.
That way was to throw the ball as often as possible to wide receiver Chris Hogan. The plan wound up being the catalyst to the Patriots’ 36-17 victory, as Hogan — targeted a game high 12 times — set a franchise postseason record 180 yards on nine receptions, and two touchdowns.
‘Josh McDaniels made some really good calls’
“We knew that they were going to be playing a lot of zones and that just goes back to all the preparation that we put in during the week,” Hogan told SiriusXM’s Jim Miller. “We put in our game plan (which) was to beat zone. And (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) made some really good calls and Tom (Brady), and the offensive line gave him some time and he found the open guy.”
Hogan realized he was entering the best situation of his NFL career when he had the chance to leave AFC East rival Buffalo after the 2015 season and sign with the Patriots as a restricted free agent.
‘I was just excited to be a part of it’
“This is definitely the reason why, just being in the AFC Championship Game,” Hogan said. “But I played against these guys for four years (with the Bills). I knew what they were about and I knew that this organization is amazing. And they’re a winning organization, just from top to bottom, everyone is all about winning. And when I came here, I knew that right away. Obviously, I was just excited to be a part of it.”
Not that it didn’t involve some challenges. On the sidelines Sunday, Hogan needed to keep a heat wrap on his right thigh, which he injured in the Patriots’ divisional-round victory against Houston.
“Just kind of banged up from the last game,” he said. “I kept heat on it the whole game just to make sure that I was able to stay loose just so I could take advantage of those big plays down the field.”