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Friday, December 6, 2013
Groupings: Confidence to break a tendency

By Mike Reiss

One of the things that will be charted on a weekly basis is the positional groupings used by the New England Patriots' offense, as they reveal player value and take us deeper into the X's and O's of how coordinator Josh McDaniels is attempting to attack the opposition.

Gronkowski
In their Week 13 win against Houston, the Patriots used their tight ends on 45.7 percent of the snaps.
The main theme this week is the Patriots' confidence to break away from the norm and rely on something that hasn't been as big a part of the attack.

That's what happened last Sunday in Houston when the Patriots ran 32 of their 70 snaps with two or more tight ends on the field. That's 45.7 percent of the snaps, compared to their pre-Week 13 season average of 21.5 percent.

Furthermore, the Patriots ran 29 of their 70 snaps with two backs on the field. That's 41.4 percent of the snaps, compared to their pre-Week 13 season average of 20.2 percent.

This is the sign of a good, and evolving offense, as those were the matchups that the Patriots felt gave them the best chance to win. The Texans mostly matched those groupings with base personnel and the Patriots obviously liked the matchup throwing against it, which sparked a second-half comeback.

When Bill Belichick talks about in-game adjustments, this is a big part of what he is often referencing.

What resulted last Sunday was a season-low in the three-receiver package, with 17 of 70 snaps (24.2 percent). Compare that to the season average of 56.5 percent of the snaps entering Week 13 and the picture comes into sharper focus. A second-quarter injury to receiver Kenbrell Thompkins might have also forced the team's hand a bit.

On the season, here is a simplified breakdown of the team's 895 offensive snaps (including penalties, not kneel-downs):

3 or more WRs: 523 of 895
2 or more TEs: 225 of 895
2 backs: 210 of 895

There is a 63-play overlap, which accounts for snaps in which there was a combination of 3 WRs/2 backs and 2-3 TEs/2 backs.