By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Injuries and attrition forced the Patriots to run basically the same players on the field for most of the game against the Giants, which they still won comfortably 35-14. But this week's Package report reflects how limited the team really was in terms of what they could do on offense.
They notably came out on the opening drive in 22 personnel with a running back, fullback, and two tight ends. They tried both running and passing in that package. But an injury to Matt LaCosse quickly forced them into single-tight end sets.
Then, an injury to Josh Gordon forced the Pats to go for strength in numbers at receiver. After Gordon left the game, the Patriots ran 11 personnel or 46 of the final 47 offensive snaps (not including kneeldowns).
Read below for a more detailed Package Report from the Pats' win over the Giants, based on 80 offensive snaps excluding Tom Brady's two kneeldowns at the end. Despite the limited options for the Patriots, there's still some interesting information to pull from the game. In case you need it, here's a quick primer on how to describe personnel groupings.
-- 11 personnel: 60 snaps (75.0 percent)
-- 21 personnel: 8 snaps (10.0 percent)
-- 22 personnel: 8 snaps (10.0 percent)
-- 23 personnel: 3 snaps (3.8 percent)
-- 12 personnel: 1 snap (1.2 percent)
-- For at least the first drive, the Patriots wanted to establish their heavier personnel that they used a healthy amount of against the Redskins. LaCosse's injury forced them out of it. They had plenty of success with both tight ends on the field in D.C. We didn't get to see nearly enough of it on Thursday.
-- The Pats turned to the rare 23 personnel on the goal line, with offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor checking in as an eligible tight end. It ultimately worked, with Brandon Bolden plowing through on third-and-goal for a rushing touchdown. But even that looked like a bit of a struggle for a Patriots O-line that's thin on high-end talent and reliable reserves.
-- Eluemunor checked back in at the goal line for the only snap in 12 personnel, which Brady took into the end zone himself.
-- After Johnson got injured on Bolden's touchdown, which reportedly will land him on injured reserve, the Patriots had to abandon 21 personnel too. Losing Johnson and LaCosse essentially turned them into a game of "Guess That Running Back", because in 11 personnel they ran their only healthy receivers and tight ends: Julian Edelman, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, and Ryan Izzo.
-- 11 personnel: 65 percent pass (39/60)
-- 21 personnel: 62.5 percent pass (5/8)
-- 22 personnel: 62.5 percent run (5/8)
-- 23 personnel: 100 percent run (3/3)
-- 12 personnel: 100 percent run (1/1)
-- Despite being forced to run 11 personnel for most of the game, the Patriots retained a fair amount of unpredictability in terms of whether they ran or threw the ball. Sony Michel caught a pass on one play out of that grouping. James White caught nine and Bolden caught two.
-- They ran three pass plays each out of their more common heavy packages. The offense has looked as good as it's looked all season in 22 and 12 personnel, so hopefully LaCosse avoided another significant injury and, if he did not, the Pats can add at tight end (Ben Watson?).
-- You can see the clear line of demarcation. After the sixth drive, which was the last for LaCosse and Johnson, the Patriots had to go virtually exclusively with 11 personnel.
-- The third drive, which consisted only of Brady's brutal interception, came in 22 personnel. The Pats clearly still want to throw out of those heavy formations, and it would have worked because Edelman was wide open down the field. Brady makes a better throw and the Patriots have a chance at a touchdown on that drive.
Season Totals (436 Snaps)
-- 10 personnel: 23 snaps (5.3 percent)
-- 11 personnel: 215 snaps (49.3 percent)
-- 12 personnel: 17 snaps (3.9 percent)
-- 20 personnel: 48 snaps (11.0 percent)
-- 21 personnel: 108 snaps (24.8 percent)
-- 22 personnel: 22 snaps (5.0 percent)
-- 23 personnel: 3 snaps (0.7 percent)
-- 10 personnel: 95.7 percent pass (22/23)
-- 11 personnel: 62.8 percent pass (135/215)
-- 12 personnel: 52.9 percent run (9/17)
-- 20 personnel: 87.5 percent pass (42/48)
-- 21 personnel: 52.8 percent run (57/108)
-- 22 personnel: 68.2 percent run (15/22)
-- 23 personnel: 100 percent run (3/3)
-- You can expect the snap counts for 21 personnel to dwindle now that the Patriots are out of fullbacks, barring a trade. It's unlikely they'd use Izzo, who has struggled enough as it is as an inline blocker.
-- The Patriots' passing play usage went up a tick in 22 personnel. Again, the hope is that LaCosse can play in 11 days on Monday Night Football at the Jets, because that gives them their best level of unpredictability between running and passing.
Up Next: More packages will be reported a week from this coming Tuesday, after Patriots-Jets.
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].