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Friday, December 27, 2013
Groupings: TE & FB show their value

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.

The biggest takeaway from last Sunday's 41-7 win over the Ravens is that the Patriots ran just 19 of their 69 snaps (27.5 percent) out of their base three-receiver package. The season average entering the game was 59 percent of the snaps out of the three-receiver package.

So why the change?

A big part of the Patriots' approach was to establish a physical presence at the line of scrimmage, which is why they played with more multiple-tight end packages (28-of-69, 40.6 percent) and more two-back packages (23-of-69, 33.3 percent). This gave them a little more power up front, and with that came an added wrinkle of some empty formations with that personnel on the field that kept the Ravens' base defense honest.

When it comes to front-line Patriots performers, fullback James Develin and tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matt Mulligan aren't often mentioned. But their hard-nosed approach, and how their strengths as players were utilized by the coaching staff, stood out on Sunday.

For the season, here is a simplified breakdown of the team's 1,127 offensive snaps (including penalties, not kneel-downs):

3 or more WRs: 644 of 1,127
2 or more TEs: 279 of 1,127
2 backs (mostly RB/FB combo): 278 of 1,127

There is a 74-play overlap, which accounts for snaps in which there was a combination of 3 WRs/2 backs and 2-3 TEs/2 backs.