The Patriots rolled out a significantly different offense than what we’re used to seeing on Sunday, and it almost helped them beat a more talented Cowboys team. Their plan on offense? “Bully ball.”
What exactly does that mean? Heavy personnel on offense, at all positions. How did they do it? By deploying by far a season-high in snaps in 22 personnel – one running back, one fullback, two tight ends, one wide receiver. At times, the second tight end was an extra tackle. The one receiver? The 6-foot-4, 225-pound N’Keal Harry.
When they ran “22,” it worked. Overall, the Patriots ran 17 plays out of “22,” 13 of them running plays. They gained 76 yards on the ground (5.8 yard average) and 26 yards on three completions (8.7 yard average), plus an incomplete pass intended for tight end Jonnu Smith. The problem is that you can’t exactly draw up an infinite number of plays in those groupings, so the Patriots gradually moved away from it in favor of their traditional three-receiver sets in 11 personnel.
“Well, when you go into the game with an alternative group, like the big people, it’s not like you go in there with like 25 plays,” head coach Bill Belichick said during his Monday Zoom conference. “Sometimes the shelf life on that doesn’t last forever. I don’t think you can just keep bringing it in and running the same play five times in a row in this league.”
Nonetheless, the Patriots had success out of “22” personnel. The grouping showed promise as far as adding wrinkles for future games, particularly to throw the ball to the tight ends. But that offense could only take them so far to keep pace against a high-powered Cowboys offense.
Here’s more on the Patriots’ unique offensive approach on Sunday against the Cowboys…