By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
After four weeks of offensive packages that favored receivers over tight ends, the Patriots turned to more formations with both Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo on the field. And ultimately, it worked to excellent effect.
Surprisingly, the Patriots have yet to activate Ben Watson and might decline to do so, which would make him a free agent. Fortunately, LaCosse and Izzo picked a good time to have their best collective effort of the season at the thinnest position on the team. They were also unpredictable in 12 (one RB, two TEs) and 22 (two RBs, two TEs) personnel, running and passing at a relatively equal clip.
In case you've stumbled in here and need a refresher on the terminology, here's a quick guide on football personnel groupings. Below is this week's Package Report from the Patriots' 33-7 win over the Redskins, which featured some interesting developments thanks to their increased use of the tight ends. This is based on 77 offensive snaps, including penalties and the final six snaps of the game with Jarrett Stidham at quarterback.
-- 11 personnel: 29 snaps (37.6 percent)
-- 12 personnel: 14 snaps (18.2 percent)
-- 20 personnel: 2 snaps (2.6 percent)
-- 21 personnel: 28 snaps (36.4 percent)
-- 22 personnel: 4 snaps (5.2 percent)
-- After running just 12 plays with two tight ends in the first four games combined, the Patriots ran 18 plays with two tight ends against the Redskins. Matt LaCosse significantly out-snapped Ryan Izzo 73-20 in easily his highest total of the season so far. He looks fully healthy and it translated to a strong offensive performance with him on the field.
-- The hamstring injury to Phillip Dorsett didn't seem to affect the Patriots' use of 11 personnel. They simply inserted rookie Jakobi Meyers in his place. Meyers played 36 snaps, the vast majority of them as the No. 3 receiver behind Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon.
-- The Patriots came out in 21 personnel for the first four plays of the game, then largely abandoned it until the second half. This is becoming a bit of a trend. The looks that Josh McDaniels shows on the opening drive won't necessarily indicate what he'll show for the rest of the game.
-- 11 personnel: 72.4 percent pass (21/29)
-- 12 personnel: 57.1 percent run (8/14)
-- 20 personnel: 100 percent pass (2/2)
-- 21 personnel: 67.9 percent pass (19/28)
-- 22 personnel: 50 percent run/pass (2/4)
-- The most striking number above is the 67.9 percent pass rate in 21 personnel. They passed to set up the run in those formations, which included fullback Jakob Johnson on all 28 snaps. After passing on all 11 snaps in 21 personnel in the first half, they ran on nine out of 17 snaps in the second half. One of those plays was Sony Michel's 14-yard touchdown run, in which Johnson blocked two guys to help him break through to the second level.
-- All four of the Patriots' touchdowns came in either 21 personnel or 12 personnel, and three of them were pass plays. On two of them - Brandon Bolden's 29-yard wheel route and Izzo's wide-open 10-yard score - the Patriots showed run and the Redskins played their defense accordingly. Their unpredictability with their heavier formations helped open things up for Brady, especially in the second half.
-- Michel had his most productive game of the season so far (91 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown) and he had a lot of success running behind two-tight end sets. Izzo made a textbook pull block to the left side that helped spring Michel for a 25-yard gain on the drive that he finished off with a 14-yard run to the end zone.
-- Three of Brady's 12 drives came with no changes in the personnel on the field, a reflection of the Patriots turning to more no-huddle and up-tempo offensive tactics. We haven't seen much of that so far this season. Perhaps now that the "extension of the preseason" is over, no-huddle will become more common.
-- As you can see above, the Patriots' four touchdown drives all favored heavier formations. The most common package on each was either 12 or 21 personnel.
-- 10 personnel: 23 snaps (6.5 percent)
-- 11 personnel: 155 snaps (43.5 percent)
-- 12 personnel: 16 snaps (4.9 percent)
-- 20 personnel: 48 snaps (13.5 percent)
-- 21 personnel: 100 snaps (28.1 percent)
-- 22 personnel: 14 snaps (3.9 percent)
-- 10 personnel: 95.7 percent pass (22/23)
-- 11 personnel: 61.9 percent pass (96/155)
-- 12 personnel: 50 percent run/pass (8/16)
-- 20 personnel: 87.5 percent pass (42/48)
-- 21 personnel: 52.0 percent run (52/100)
-- 22 personnel: 71.4 percent run (10/14)
-- As a result of Sunday's tight end bonanza, the Patriots' overall use of 12 personnel skyrocketed from 0.7 percent after the first four weeks to 4.9 percent after Week 5. We'll see if that was just a result of the matchup or whether Bill Belichick would like to run more of those packages.
-- Interestingly enough, Sunday's play-calling gave the Patriots an even split in running and passing in 12 personnel. Good luck trying to figure out what they're going to do when they roll out those formations.
The package report comes on Friday this week, with the Patriots playing the Giants on Thursday Night Football. It's reasonable to expect that they'll run a more simplified offense with less diversity in their packages. They shouldn't need to get too creative in order to beat the Giants at home on a short week.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].