By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels had to morph the Patriots’ offense in a matter of days after placing Cam Newton on the reserve/COVID-19 list. With Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham under center, the results were mixed at best – but there were still some interesting changes to pull from the Patriots’ 26-10 loss to the Chiefs.
The Patriots had season-high snap counts for 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end, two receivers) as they leaned heavily on the run game against the Chiefs, featuring the 2020 debut of second-year pro Damien Harris. But they also threw the ball a notable amount out of those groupings, another indication that McDaniels wants to maintain unpredictability when they line up that way.
They also had to modify the offense on the fly, making a quarterback change in the fourth quarter with Jarrett Stidham mercifully coming in relief of Brian Hoyer. We began to see more three-receiver sets at that point, but that’s also a reflection of the game flow to that point as the Chiefs started finding the end zone and pulling away on the scoreboard.
Though there was some clear variation in the personnel groupings at times, the Patriots decided to devote the vast majority of their offensive snap counts to 21 personnel and 11 personnel (one RB, one TE, three WRs). This marks the first time in the season that the Patriots favored a personnel package other than “11” on the majority of snaps.
21 personnel: 34 snaps (45.9 percent)
11 personnel: 31 snaps (41.9 percent)
10 personnel: 5 snaps (6.8 percent)
22 personnel: 2 snaps (2.7 percent)
12 personnel: 1 snap (1.35 percent)
20 personnel: 1 snap (1.35 percent)
Out of their 34 snaps in 21 personnel, 21 of them used Harris and fullback Jakob Johnson. On 19 snaps they used this particular grouping: Harris, Johnson, TE Ryan Izzo, and WRs Damiere Byrd and N’Keal Harry. Byrd and Harry continue to be the team’s go-to blockers in the run game, but Julian Edelman got some looks out of this package against the Chiefs. Edelman replaced Harry for seven snaps in “21”, making one catch.
The Patriots also utilized a running back duo of James White and Rex Burkhead on a season-high 14 snaps, one of which was their lone snap in 20 personnel (two RBs, zero TEs). Unfortunately, that one play in “20” was Hoyer’s lost fumble late in the third quarter.
Edelman, Harry, and Byrd continue to be the pecking order in three-receiver sets. But interestingly enough, undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber was the go-to No. 4 receiver in 10 personnel (one RB, four WRs). He played nine snaps total, compared to six for the returning Gunner Olszewski. Jakobi Meyers was inactive and appears to have slid down the depth chart.
Wide Receiver Snaps:
Damiere Byrd: 72
N’Keal Harry: 58
Julian Edelman: 44
Isaiah Zuber: 9
Gunner Olszewski: 6
Running Back Snaps:
James White: 39
Rex Burkhead: 26
Damien Harris: 23
Jakob Johnson: 23
Tight End Snaps:
Ryan Izzo: 64
Devin Asiasi: 7
Running & Passing
Unsurprisingly, the Patriots favored the run out of 21 personnel and the pass out of 11 personnel. But the percentages are telling. The Pats dropped back to pass on five snaps with Harris and Johnson showing run.
21 personnel: 61.8 percent run (21-of-34)
11 personnel: 71 percent pass (22-of-31)
10 personnel: 100 percent pass (5-of-5)
22 personnel: 100 percent run (2-of-2)
12 personnel: 100 percent pass (1-of-1)
20 personnel: 100 percent pass (1-of-1)
Burkhead ran the ball on seven of 10 running plays out of 11 personnel. He’s still the Patriots’ most unpredictable back to have on the field in terms of whether they’re running or passing, and his snap counts out of these packages against the Chiefs reflect that.
The Patriots went 6-for-15 on third down, a clear indication of their offensive inefficiency in key situations with backup quarterbacks on the field. As they usually do, they favored 11 personnel on third downs, using the package on 10 of 15 snaps.
What was a little different was their increased usage of 10 personnel on third down. That may simply reflect the Patriots’ improved depth at receiver for this game, and a lack of production at tight end. Izzo was the TE on all but one snap in “11” on third down, while White was the lone RB on all but one snap.
The Patriots’ highest snap counts on third down went to this particular grouping against the Chiefs: White, Izzo, Byrd, Edelman, and Harry. That package continues to be the team’s go-to in those situations, so that didn’t change with the quarterback shift.
The drive chart has been modified to include the quarter in which a drive took place, to illustrate frequency and length of possessions during the course of the game. Hoyer was the QB in the first three quarters, with Stidham taking over in the fourth.
The Patriots ran 21 personnel more than 11 personnel on seven of their 11 offensive drives, and continued to lean on it into the second half as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs started to find their rhythm. They favored 11 personnel more after Stidham came in, but that’s also indicative of how the Patriots had to open up their passing game after the Chiefs started scoring more.
With Stidham in the game, the Pats ran 15 snaps in 11 personnel, seven in “21,” and one each in “10” and “22.” They went no-huddle on their final drive, essentially in garbage time at that point, using rookie TE Devin Asiasi in place of Izzo.
The Patriots’ usage of 11 personnel and 21 personnel shifted down and up by about 6 percent after this game. But they’re still over 50 percent running three-receiver sets and that’s not likely to change, unless they’re able to start making more plays in the passing game out of “21.”
Snap Counts (274 total)
11 personnel: 154 snaps (56.2 percent)
21 personnel: 81 snaps (29.6 percent)
12 personnel: 15 snaps (5.5 percent)
14 personnel: 7 snaps (2.6 percent)
22 personnel: 6 snaps (2.2 percent)
10 personnel: 9 snaps (3.3 percent)
23 personnel: 1 snap (0.3 percent)
20 personnel: 1 snap (0.3 percent)
11 personnel: 62.9 percent pass (97-of-154)
21 personnel: 65.4 percent run (53-of-81)
12 personnel: 53.3 percent run (8-of-15)
14 personnel: 85.7 percent run (6-of-7)
22 personnel: 100 percent run (6-of-6)
10 personnel: 88.9 percent pass (8-of-9)
23 personnel: 100 percent run (1-of-1)
20 personnel: 100 percent pass (1-of-1)
Next Package Report comes after the Patriots play the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium this coming Sunday.
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? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at email@example.com.