The Package Report: Patriots revert to familiar groupings after falling behind Texans

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Sunday night presented a rare scenario for the Patriots this season: down multiple scores and scrambling to find something that moves the ball quickly on offense.

After seemingly looking to establish a power running attack on their opening drive against the Texans, the Patriots almost abandoned it entirely for the rest of the game as Houston scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions and left Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels turning to what they trust the most.

So, the Patriots reverted back to mostly "11" personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) after a healthy mix of packages on the 13-play first drive, which resulted in just a field goal. They mostly struggled to stay on the field before exploding for three touchdowns in the final 15:17, as the Texans called off the dogs and the Pats made it fairly interesting in the closing minutes.

Bill Belichick credited the Texans' defensive adjustments for the Patriots' lack of heavier groupings that they'd established on the first drive of the game.

"They played a lot of man coverage, put an extra guy on the line of scrimmage," Belichick said during his Monday conference call. "So, we ran it and threw it. We had our chances, we just couldn’t – like I said, in the end we just couldn’t, make enough plays and couldn’t score enough points. They did a good job. I thought we had our chances, we’ve just got to make more out of them."

The Patriots didn't just lean on 11 personnel progressively harder as the game went along. They also mixed in more 12 personnel after scoring a touchdown with it last week, and even introduced another new, rare grouping. Here's a full breakdown, based on 84 offensive snaps including penalties.

Dec 1, 2019; Houston, TX: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady calls a play against the Houston Texans in the second half at NRG Stadium. (Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports)
Dec 1, 2019; Houston, TX: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady calls a play against the Houston Texans in the second half at NRG Stadium. (Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports)

Snap Counts (86 Total)

-- 00 personnel: 1 snap (1.2 percent)
-- 10 personnel: 2 snaps (2.3 percent)
-- 11 personnel: 67 snaps (77.9 percent)
-- 12 personnel: 11 snaps (12.8 percent)
-- 22 personnel: 5 snaps (5.8 percent)

Notes:

-- Favorite Package: RB James White, TE Ben Watson, WR Julian Edelman, WR Phillip Dorsett, WR Jakobi Meyers...The Pats used this grouping on 26 of 84 snaps, 30.9 percent of all offensive plays. Dorsett played the majority of his snaps in the second half, a sure sign that Brady and McDaniels trust him as much as any receiver not named Edelman.

-- The "00" is correct. On the play before Tom Brady's first-quarter interception, the Patriots busted out the rare 00 personnel - no running backs, no tight ends, five wide receivers. As five-wide as it can get. Mohamed Sanu made a six-yard grab on the play.

-- Unsurprisingly, the Patriots favored three- and-four-receiver sets on third down. They ran 11 personnel on 16 of 17 third-down snaps, and 10 personnel (1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR) on the 17th.

-- James White was the running back on all third downs. Tight end Ben Watson played on 12 of 15 third-down snaps in 11 personnel, with Matt LaCosse playing the other three.

-- The Pats used Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Jakobi Meyers as their three-wide grouping on nine third down plays. N'Keal Harry got four third-down snaps, and Sanu got five (two in 10 personnel).

-- As the drive-by-drive chart will illustrate below, the Patriots played 11 personnel on 34 of their final 35 offensive snaps. White Edelman, Dorsett, and Meyers played on all 34. Watson essentially split snaps with LaCosse in that span, 18-16. The lone non-11 personnel play was an incomplete pass to LaCosse in 12 personnel with Sony Michel as the RB.

Tom Brady in the huddle during the second half of a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 1, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Patriots 28-22. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots in the huddle during the second half of a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 1, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Patriots 28-22. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Run/Pass

-- 00 personnel: 100 percent pass (1/1)
-- 10 personnel: 100 percent pass (2/2)
-- 11 personnel: 74.6 percent pass (50/67)
-- 12 personnel: 63.6 percent run (7/11)
-- 22 personnel: 80 percent run (4/5)

Notes:

-- No mystery to the Patriots' use of 22 personnel in this one. They ran it mostly in the first quarter with an eye on moving the ball on the ground with Michel. It actually worked initially, but the Texans quickly adjusted to it.

-- The Patriots did, however, mix it up when running 12 personnel. Brady spread it around on the four pass plays in that grouping. He targeted Edelman twice, and Sanu and LaCosse once each.

-- Michel got the carry on six of the Patriots' seven running plays in 12 personnel. The seventh was an end-around to Edelman that got snuffed out for a seven-yard loss, but got bailed out by a Texans unnecessary roughness penalty.

-- On two of their running plays in 22 personnel, linebacker Elandon Roberts lined up as a fullback. Michel gained five yards on each play.

Dec 1, 2019; Houston, TX: New England quarterback Tom Brady stands in the huddle during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Dec 1, 2019; Houston, TX: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady stands in the huddle during the second quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Drive-By-Drive

 

No. 00 10 11 12 22 Result
1. 0 0 6 4 3 FG
2. 1 0 1 1 0 INT
3. 0 0 4 2 0 Punt
4. 0 0 7 0 0 Punt
5. 0 0 7 0 0 Punt
6. 0 0 2 2 1 Punt
7. 0 2 4 1 1 Downs
8. 0 0 14 1 0 TD
9. 0 0 15 0 0 TD
10. 0 0 7 0 0 TD

 

Notes:

-- The Patriots averaged 8.4 plays per drive in this game, easily their highest average plays per drive of the season. The next-closest is seven plays per drive in the season opener against the Steelers.

-- A number of factors led to this season-high in plays per drive. The Patriots had no turnovers on defense or special teams and thus no short fields. They ran 13 and 14 plays on two of their three touchdown drives late in the fourth quarter.

-- Nearly half of the Patriots' snaps in 12 or 22 personnel (7/16) happened on the opening drive. That means they ran one of those groupings on 54 percent of plays on the first drive, but only 13 percent of the following 71 snaps.

Dec 1, 2019; Houston, TX: New England wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is pushed out of bounds by Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. (Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports)
Dec 1, 2019; Houston, TX: New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is pushed out of bounds by Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. (Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports)

Season Totals (876 snaps):

Snap Counts:

-- 00 personnel: 1 snap (0.1 percent)
-- 10 personnel: 48 snaps (5.5 percent)
-- 11 personnel: 511 snaps (58.3 percent)
-- 12 personnel: 57 snaps (6.5 percent)
-- 13 personnel: 2 snaps (0.2 percent)
-- 20 personnel: 58 snaps (6.6 percent)
-- 21 personnel: 147 snaps (16.8 percent)
-- 22 personnel: 41 snaps (4.7 percent)
-- 23 personnel: 11 snaps (1.3 percent)

Run/Pass:

-- 00 personnel: 100 percent pass (1/1)
-- 10 personnel: 93.8 percent pass (45/48)
-- 11 personnel: 69.2 percent pass (352/509)
-- 12 personnel: 63.6 percent run (41/57)
-- 13 personnel: 100 percent run (2/2)
-- 20 personnel: 86.2 percent pass (50/58)
-- 21 personnel: 55.8 percent run (82/147)
-- 22 personnel: 56.1 percent run (23/41)
-- 23 personnel: 100 percent run (11/11)

Next Package Report comes next Monday after the Patriots play the Kansas City Chiefs.

Note: This was updated with two additional plays in 11 personnel, including the failed two-point conversion.

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].