By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
For the second time in 2019, N’Keal Harry got the ball in the red zone and found pay dirt. This time it wasn’t counted due to some incredibly poor officiating. But don’t let that take away from Harry clearly scoring what should have been his second red zone touchdown in three weeks.
So why isn’t the Patriots rookie receiver being used in the red area more? Why was he barely used at all on Sunday against the Chiefs, when he played a mere two offensive snaps? Head coach Bill Belichick chalked it up to Harry still being behind the rest of the offense after missing the first half of the season due to injury.
“N’Keal has made progress in every area,” Belichick said during his Monday conference call. “There’s a lot of ground for him to make up based on when he came back off of injured reserve in mid-season. He’s working hard at it, he’s improving, but as I said, he’s got a way to go. We’ll try to utilize our team and our players the best way we can based on all the circumstances that are involved in each and every game.”
The Patriots ran only 10 offensive snaps in the red zone on Sunday, but used Harry on just one of them – and it should have been a touchdown and a dynamic play at that. They didn’t use him at all on their final four red zone plays, which ended with an incompletion toward Julian Edelman.
Sunday also continued a bit of a troubling trend with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. After mixing up the personnel groupings and using heavier packages early on, the Patriots reverted to more straightforward three-receiver sets after going down by multiple scores. It hasn’t exactly worked, especially when Jakobi Meyers is dropping the ball and Phillip Dorsett (no catches on two targets) is barely getting involved despite being out there in most of those packages.
On that note, here’s a full breakdown of how the Patriots deployed their offensive personnel packages against the Chiefs. This is based on 66 snaps, including a two-point conversion attempt and excluding a false start penalty.
Snap Counts (66 Total)
— 10 personnel: 6 snaps (9.1 percent)
— 11 personnel: 30 snaps (45.5 percent)
— 12 personnel: 26 snaps (39.4 percent)
— 20 personnel: 2 snaps (3.0 percent)
— 21 personnel: 1 snap (1.5 percent)
— 22 personnel: 1 snap (1.5 percent)
— Favorite Package: RB James White, TE Matt LaCosse, WR Julian Edelman, WR Phillip Dorsett, WR Jakobi Meyers. They used this grouping on 19 snaps, 12 of which in the second half and 18 after they were first trailing. This was the exact grouping on White’s trick-pass to Meyers that went for 35 yards.
— The Patriots’ two touchdowns came in 12 and 21 personnel. Their lone snap in “21” was a jet sweep touchdown for Brandon Bolden.
— The Patriots ran 11 personnel on nine of 10 snaps in the red zone, the other being Bolden’s touchdown in 21 personnel.
— Based on receiver usage, Harry was considered the clear fifth option. He played on only one out of six snaps in 10 personnel (1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR). The other five featured Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Mohamed Sanu, and Meyers.
— Sunday was by far the most the Patriots have used 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) in a single game, running it on 26 snaps. The previous high was 14 snaps against the Redskins in Week 5.
— It was also their lowest percentage of plays in 11 personnel (44.6 percent) since Week 8 against the Browns, and the first time since that game that they ran it on under 50 percent of plays. Also going back to Week 8, it was the most snaps in 10 personnel (1 RB, 4 WR) since the win over Cleveland.
— 10 personnel: 100 percent pass (6/6)
— 11 personnel: 76.7 percent pass (23/30)
— 12 personnel: 50/50 run/pass (13/26)
— 20 personnel: 100 percent pass (2/2)
— 21 personnel: 100 percent run (1/1)
— 22 personnel: 100 percent run (1/1)
— The Patriots may have gotten away from 12 personnel as the game went on and those packages weren’t overly successful. But they were totally unpredictable in terms of run/pass, with an even 13/13 split on runs and passes out of 26 snaps in “12”.
— On the Patriots’ lone snap in 22 personnel, Sony Michel picked up a first down on third-and-1. Elandon Roberts checked in for his only snap as a fullback on the play. Phillip Dorsett was the lone receiver, which could have been an attempt at showing a deceptive wrinkle since Dorsett was less obvious as a blocker than someone like Harry or Sanu.
— James White carried the ball on all seven runs out of 11 personnel. He’s never been the most effective on the ground, but White at least gives them some semblance of unpredictability in those packages when he’s taking handoffs.
— McDaniels called 20 personnel (2 RB, 3 WR) for the first time since using it on six snaps in Week 8 against the Browns. Both plays were incomplete and had the following personnel: RBs James White and Rex Burkhead, WRs Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers.
— Tom Brady’s interception is the clear line of demarcation for when the Patriots mostly abandoned 12 personnel and reverted to the same familiar 11 personnel groupings that they used in their other losses. Before the INT, they ran 12 personnel on 19 of 23 snaps. After the pick, they ran “12” on seven out of their final 42 snaps.
— The Patriots used more than two different groupings on only three out of their 12 possessions. That’s partially a reflection of the fact that they had four three-and-outs and a short field on the Bolden touchdown, as well as the interception happening on the first play of the drive.
Season Totals (942 Snaps)
— 00 personnel: 1 snap (0.1 percent)
— 10 personnel: 54 snaps (5.7 percent)
— 11 personnel: 541 snaps (57.5 percent)
— 12 personnel: 83 snaps (8.8 percent)
— 13 personnel: 2 snaps (0.2 percent)
— 20 personnel: 60 snaps (6.4 percent)
— 21 personnel: 148 snaps (15.7 percent)
— 22 personnel: 42 snaps (4.4 percent)
— 23 personnel: 11 snaps (1.2 percent)
— 00 personnel: 100 percent pass (1/1)
— 10 personnel: 94.4 percent pass (51/54)
— 11 personnel: 69.5 percent pass (376/541)
— 12 personnel: 65.1 percent run (54/83)
— 13 personnel: 100 percent run (2/2)
— 20 personnel: 86.7 percent pass (52/60)
— 21 personnel: 56.1 percent run (83/148)
— 22 personnel: 57.1 percent run (24/42)
— 23 personnel: 100 percent run (11/11)
Next Package Report comes next Monday, after the Patriots play the Cincinnati Bengals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.