FanPost

Are you smarter than Bill O’Brien ? #2 - vs Chargers edition

Hey guys, welcome to the second edition of "Are you smarter than Bill O’Brien ?". The aim of these articles are to bring you inside the numbers to see how the offense is working, using a bunch of home-made charts. You’ll see some of the things a defensive coordinator looks at before calling a play, and we’re going to try to pick up some tendencies during the season. Hopefully, we’ll be able to understand how the Patriots work.

Before I start the heavy analysis, here’s the link to my spreadsheet where I recap all the offensive snaps, including penalties and 2-points conversion. Every chart that follows in the article is based on that, and if you missed the game, well, it’s quite complete, so check it out.

You can also find last week’s article following this link.

Now, the first thing to look at when you’re a defensive coordinator, is the personnel on the field, as I said last week, because you’re going to call your play before the offense lines up. I’ll refer to the offensive grouping using a specific terminology where a formation  is designated by the number of Running Back and Tight Ends on the field. For example, the ‘21’ package has 2 running backs and 1 tight end on the field. Since there are only 5 skill positions on the field on a given play, you’ll be able to deduce the number of wide receivers. In the previous example, we’ll have 2 WRs.

The chart:

 

Personnel

RB

TE

WR

0

0

0

5

1

0

1

4

2

0

2

3

10

1

0

4

11

1

1

3

12

1

2

2

13

1

3

1

20

2

0

3

21

2

1

2

22

2

2

1

23

2

3

0

I included Fletcher (linebacker) as a RB in the goal-line formations.

Here’s an advice I gave last week. Any of you guys did it? I tried, but I usually end up being caught by the game and I just forget to check. Anyway, if you’re interested:

You may want to try to pick up a trend during the game, so here is an easy way to do it: take a sheet of paper and a pen, create a chart with several entries for the personnel packages, and check run or pass when you see the outcome of the play.

More after the jump.

  • Personnel (First Half)

               Call

Personnel

Run

Pass (attempted)

Total number of plays

 

Number of runs

Average

Number of passes

Number of PA

Average

 

00

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

11

0

0.0

4

 

15.8

4

12

7

3.4

18

1

7.8

25          

13

5

4.8

2

1

9.0

7

20

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

22

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

12

4.0

24

2

9.25

36

Note: the penalties are not included in the graphics, even if we can see what the play call was. The incompletions count as a 0y passing play and the sacks as a negative passing play.  

  • Personnel (Second Half)

               Call

Personnel

Run

Pass (attempted)

Total number of plays

 

Number of runs

Average

Number of passes

Number of PA

Average

 

00

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

11

1

2.0

5

 

20.7

6

12

3

3.0

11

2

8.4

14

13

9

4.3

1

1

29.0

10

20

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

22

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

13

3.8

17

3

10.8

30

 

So, that’s a balanced game-plan, right? On the first drive, 4 out of 12 plays were runs (66.67 %). And we saw the same numbers during the first half. Twice as many passes as runs. But it didn’t make the offense predictable (at least on the first drive). Here’s where I have to tell you something a lot of offensive coordinators plan to do on the first drive. They mix the different formations to make the defensive coordinators react and show their game-plan.

Let’s look at that first drive. The personnel were: 12 / 13 / 12 / 11 / 13 / 12 / 12 / 13 / 12 / 12 / 11 / 12 (TD), with a No Huddle play thrown in there to make good measure. That’s interesting, especially when you consider that 20 of the 26 next plays (the remaining of the first half snaps) were called from a ‘12’ formation (including the last two plays of the half, out of an 11 package, but I’ll get back to these ones). The funny thing is, when you consider the plays out of the ‘12’ packages in the 1st drive, we can see 5 passes and 2 runs, so BoB (Bill O’Brien) isn’t doing anything fancy. But I really like what he did in the first half. I mean, the offense looked like a wolf pack. BoB showed a great killer instinct here. He used the ‘12’ package early and often to destroy the opposition. The killer instinct is all about pressing the same button over and over again until your opponent dies or proves he can do something to stop it. Go for the throat and make them react. You can’t cover the Tight Ends? I’ll send the Tight Ends. Hey, that’s okay if you know what’s coming, because you can’t do anything about it.

The Chargers made some nice adjustments on defense, because the Pats didn’t do much offensively in the third quarter, and it took a fumbled ball recovered by Kyle Love to regain momentum in the fourth quarter, despite basically stealing three points right before the half. I do believe Brady was a little dinged up after the hit to his knee, and he was perhaps a little too cautious after the first half. The ‘12’ package was less effective in the second half, and the Chargers proved Sunday that they could do something about the miracle formation. We saw a healthy dose of ‘13’ formations to close the game, but it may have been a fluke, with Hernandez sidelined because of an injury.

Speaking of the ‘13’ package... It showed us something interesting: Nate Solder was used as a 3rd Tight End. That’s the OT the Patriots drafted in the 1st round, in case you’ve been living in a hole during the summer. We’ve seen very little passing plays from the ‘13’ personnel in the first half, with gains of 2 and 16 yards respectively, with a play-action to set up the “big” play. I don’t blame the Chargers’ defense on that play, since the Pats have been successful on the ground using the ‘13’ personnel, especially considering that if there is a personnel that screams run, it’s the ‘13’. In the first half, BoB called 5 runs, and the running backs averaged 4.8 yards. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Ridley shared the carries in those attempts. In this game, the ‘13’ package wasn’t only used in short yardage situations, since only 28.5% of the ‘13’ plays were on 3rd and short. Also note-worthy, Chad Ochocinco took all the reps in the ‘13’ package during the 1st quarter, but he may have blown an assignment or run the wrong route in one of those plays, because Branch (6 snaps) and Welker (8 snaps) were on the field until the end of the game. For the last part of the sentence, it may very well be me reading too much into it, but I definitely think that Chad’s role is increasing in the offense.

And that leads me to…

The two-minute offense, that was once again executed in an 11 package, with Wes, Deion, and Chad taking the reps.  Here’s what I wrote last week :

“We may see more 12 personnel in the near future to run the 2-minutes offense if #85 can’t get comfortable with the playbook”.

Well, Chad seems to have earned a spot in the ‘11’ package, because he was on the field during the whole time the ‘11’ package was used. I’ll talk about the efficiency of the ‘11’ personnel when I throw some numbers related to the QB.

 Considering the whole game:

-         The Fletcher experiment on the goal line formation was nowhere to be seen against the Chargers

-         San Diego had trouble defending the medium-to-deep ball (see below)

Let’s have a look at the play-calling depending on the downs.

  • Downs (1st half)

                Call       

Down

Run

Pass

Play-action

Total

1st

7

11

2

18

2nd

4

7

1

11

3rd

1

6

 

7

4th

 

 

 

 

Total

12

24

3

36

  • Downs (2nd half)

                 Call       

Down

Run

Pass

Play-action

Total

1st

9

6

 

15

2nd

2

7

3

9

3rd

1

3

 

4

4th and 2-point conversion

1

1

 

2

Total

13

17

3

30

Well, when we are considering the downs chart, the play-calling was not balanced at all in the first half, with a 38% / 62% run / pass split on first and second down. Only one 3rd down conversion was attempted on the ground, leading the Patriots’ offense to become, just like last week, predictable. I’ll break-down the 3rd down plays a little later.

The balance was different in the second half, with 60% of the first down being runs. Unfortunately, those 1st down runs often resulted in small gains, or even lost yardage. That explains an aggressive playcalling on 2nd down in favour of the pass, the same scenario as in the Dolphins game, for different reasons : there was a running game in the 2nd half last week.

  • Formation (1st half)

               Call

Formation

Run

 

Pass

 

 

Number of runs

Average

Number of passes    

Number of PA

Average

Under Center

10

4.4

9

3

7.6

Shotgun

2

2.0

15

 

10.2

Total

12

4.0

24

3

9.25

  • Formation (2nd half)

               Call

Formation

Run

 

Pass

 

 

Number of runs

Average

Number of passes    

Number of PA

Average

Under Center

12

3.2

10

3

10.2

Shotgun

1

2.0

7

 

11.6

Total

13

3.0

17

3

10.8

 

Here I wanted to have a chart for the number of runs / passes out of the different formations. The Shotgun formation was primarily used to pass, and Danny Woodhead didn’t attempt a lot of draws from the Shotgun. As a matter of fact, the sole run from the Shotgun in the first half resulted in Woody being stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Brady did scramble from the Shotgun formation, so there’s the explanation for the 2.0 yards per carry in the Shotgun. We can see in these charts that the passing game was once again very effective, no matter what formation was used. 10.2 on average from the Shotgun (down from 12.4 last week), and 7.6y (up from 7.4ypc last week) when the QB takes the snap under center in the first half.

The stats are really misleading in the second half. The run was horrible until the last drive, but good enough to grind the Chargers out, so I guess the running stats are okay here. But the pass was not nearly as good as it seems here. There were basically incomplete passes and strikes down the field that made the average passing play go up, but it was not a good offense that took the field in the second half.

 Let’s talk about Third down conversion now.

 

3rd downs breakdown (1st half)

Converted

Not converted

% Conversion

Number of 3rd downs

6

1

85.71

Formation

UC

2

0

100.00

S

4

1

80.00

Call

R

1

0

100.00

P

4

1

80.00

Personnel

11

2

0

100.00

12

2

1

66.67

13

2

0

100.00

 

3rd downs breakdown (2nd half)

Converted

Not converted

% Conversion

Number of 3rd downs

2

4

33.33

Formation

UC

1

3

25.00

S

1

0

100.00

Call

R

2

0

100.00

P

0

4

0.00

Personnel

11

1

2

25.00

12

0

2

0.00

13

1

0

100.00

Note: In the 2nd half, I included the 4th down play (because it’s a drive killer too if you can’t convert) and the 2-points conversion (because there’s only one try, as it is the case for a 3rd down play).

I displayed the difference between the first and second half to show you the adjustments, as usual. Six  3rd downs converted in the 1st half, and one that wasn’t (even if it was at the goal line), that’s a pretty good rate. The Chargers were just beaten in the first half. Unfortunately, the Chargers made great adjustments during the halftime, because they shut down the 3rd down pass. It’s not surprising, considering that the running game wasn’t effective in the 3rd quarter and the beginning of the 4th quarter, and Tom seemed a little shaken up by the hit to his knees.

The Chargers understood that the 3rd down plays are clearly Brady’s territory, and they shut him down early in the 2nd half, but BoB adjusted nicely in return, throwing a couple of running plays to close the game (a 3rd down conversion and a 2 point conversion)

 Overall, the Patriots did a good job of converting the 3rd down plays, with a 61.54% conversion rate. Only 40% of the ’12’ sets plays resulted in a first down, and none in the second half. That’s quite the opposite of the Dolphins game, really.

A 100% conversion rate on 3rd down when a run is called for the second straight week. I have to think that the defensive coordinator always expect a pass when the game (or the drive) is on the line, so BJGE has less trouble converting. The fact that Brady won’t hesitate to call an audible on 3rd down if the defense plays the pass also helps.

100% of the ‘13’ plays resulted in a first down, too. Solder seems to make an impact. Even if the ‘11’ package was successful during the game, the 3rd down conversion were not great in the second half, as it has been the case with all the passes attempts (no conversion in the 2nd half).

Please note that these observations don’t take into account the distance needed to convert a third down (except when I talk about the run).

 So, I have been talking a lot about formations, personnel, conversions and all this cool stuff that I extracted from the game, but it’s time to look at the offense, position by position. I’ll share with you some random thoughts.

  • The running backs :

 1st half :

         Tailback

Call

BJGE

Woodhead

Ridley

Vereen

Brady

Run on 1st and 2nd down

4

4

2

Inactive

0

Run on 3rd and 4th down

1

0

0

Inactive

1

Pass on 1st and 2nd down

3

15 (including 3 lined up as a wide out)

0

Inactive

/

Pass on 3rd and 4th

1

5

0

Inactive

/

 2nd half :

        Tailback

Call

BJGE

Woodhead

Ridley

Vereen

Brady

Run on 1st and 2nd down

11

0

0

Inactive

0

Run on 3rd and 4th down

1

1 (2-point conversion)

0

Inactive

0

Pass on 1st and 2nd down

6

7 (including 2 lined up as a wide out)

0

Inactive

0

Pass on 3rd and 4th

0

4 (including 1 lined up as a wide out)

0

Inactive

0

 

Green-Ellis and Woodhead shared the carries in this game, with BJGE taking the reps near the goal-line and in most ‘13’ sets, and Woody playing the Shotgun formation and the hurry-up offense. BJGE took the bulk of the snaps on the first drive and helped set up the play-action early in the game.

Danny Woodhead continued to line up everywhere, including multiple times at wideout. The little man has some good blocking skills, even if he got beat for a sack. His versatility once again helped him, and he doesn’t look like a pure 3rd down back right now.

The Running Back fell asleep in the second half, consistently brought down before the line of scrimmage. That had to happen, when Tom carves up the defenses through the air. Fortunately, Benny was able to close the game nicely during the last drive, capped by a beautiful run behind four good blocks of the linemen. That’s during those plays that I understand why BB loves mobile offensive linemen.

Steven Ridley saw his first carries in the game, for 6 and 3 yards respectively, but it was probably to get the “starters” a little time to rest. Vereen was once again inactive.

As deadly as Brady has been last week in the running game, the Chargers didn’t game-plan around him, and as a result, Brady ran the ball down their throats, scrambling for four yards. Maybe the NFL will finally take notice. For your information, Brady is on pace for 40 yards rushing on the year. Even if he doesn’t break Marino’s passing yards record, he’ll at least  break some rushing records. I mean, we already have a CJ2K in the league, I guess we’ll have a TB-Forty now.

  • The run-blocking offensive line

 1st half :

Direction of the run

Left end

LT

LG

Middle

RG

RT

Right end

Number of runs

5

2

 

3

 

1

1

Yards gained

24

7

 

8

 

6

3

Yards average

4.8

3.5

 

2.7

 

6.0

3.0

 2nd half :

Direction of the run

Left end

LT

LG

Middle

RG

RT

Right end

Number of runs

2

1

2

1

3

1

3

Yards gained

4

16

14

2

8

-1

7

Yards average

2.0

16.0

7.0

2.0

2.7

-1.0

2.33

So, in the first half of the game, the running game went to the outside, probably to get the DEs and the OLBs tired. I noticed O’Brien kept going back to the run on the left side. That’s where they went on the last TD that sealed the 14 point spread. The Chargers didn’t have an answer for that all game and they just kept coming back to it. BB knew there was a rookie (Liuget) and two stop-gap OLBs (LaBoy and Barnes) on that side. That was the weakest part of their defense and BoB didn’t let up. Phillips was good on the right side against the TEs, and the RBs didn’t run often to the right side.

I know I said the Patriots don’t like to run to the left because of Light, but in this game, the Gronks and Hernandez were helping him out. The running game disappeared during the 3rd quarter, and I credit the Chargers on that one, because there was a lot of tackles for losses, even if BJGE took the majority of the snaps in the second half. The Patriots had to go through the air to beat the Chargers, and they couldn’t do that until the 4th quarter. A positive sign is that the Patriots were able to pound the football to close the game, using a lot of ‘13’ sets. That helped re-establish the play-action, highlighted by a 29 yards strike to Rob Gronkowski in that last drive. 

  • The wide receivers :

Welker had a good day, but the Brady-Branch connection was the big story of this game. Why the hell did some writers think that Branch could be cut at the end of the preseason because he didn’t have any catches? Both of them were in the ‘12’ packages, as it was the case last week, and both of them were part of the no huddle and 2-minute offense.

Ochocinco once again wasn’t a big part of the gameplan, who featured a lot of ‘12’ sets, but he did have some success in the ‘11’ packages. Ochocinco played 18 snaps against the Dolphins, and he followed by playing 17 against the Chargers, but he looked much more sharp. He saw action in the ‘13’ sets early in the game, as I said earlier, and we can expect more action for him in this niche, unless he splits playing time with Price. It makes sense to bring an athletic receiver to draw coverage from the running backs in a power running play, of audible to a deep ball with max protection when the WR is single covered. You have to consider that Ochocinco is harder to jam at the line of scrimmage too, so it’s harder to shut this particular option down in the passing game. When Hernandez comes back healthy, the Jets will have a hard time executing their playoff game-plan, because the ‘13’ formation with Ochocinco looks tough.

Quiet showings from both Edelman (2 snaps) and Slater (4 snaps), although Edelman handled kickoff return duties nicely.

  • The QB :

A few figures for Tom Brady :

 

2+ Tight Ends

3 Wide Receivers

Completion pct

71.9

88.9

Yards per attempt

9.1

14.7

Attempt per TD

16.0

9.0

NFL passer rating

120.7

155.8

The Patriots and Chargers finished with the first and second most plays that used two or more tight ends on offense last season. On Sunday, Tom Brady connected for all three of his passing touchdowns on the day with his tight ends. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers finished with just one attempt intended for Antonio Gates that ended with an interception. While Brady was strong from two tight-end formations, he was even better with extra wide receivers on the field. That makes me think we’ll see #85 having a big game sooner rather than later.

The Chargers took a unique approach against Tom Brady on Sunday. Of the 44 dropbacks taken by Brady, the Chargers dropped 8 men in pass coverage on 12 of those. With a three-man pass rush providing little pressure, Brady was patient and found holes in the zone to finish 10 out of11 for 120 yards and a touchdown in those situations.

We’ve seen the offense going for the small ball in 2010, making the linebackers cover from sideline to sideline, but in the early 2011 season, the Patriots are quite good deep. Tom Brady completed 10 out of 12 passes that traveled 11 yards or more on Sunday. He was able to exploit the Chargers’ secondary, one of the top defenses in the NFL against the deep ball in 2010, with many different receivers. Overall, five different Patriots caught two passes each that were thrown 11 yards or more resulting in 203 yards and two touchdowns.

Chargers Pass Defense on Throws of 11+ Yards: Last 2 Seasons

 

Entering Sunday

Sunday vs the Patriots

Completion pct

39.2

83.3

Yards per attempt

8.8

16.9

Interception to TD differential

+6 *

-2

* Best in the NFL

 

Looking at the ball distribution in the passing game in terms of direction through two games, the numbers are almost identical to each part of the field.  Of Brady’s 88 targets, he’s targeted 30 to the left (24 completions – 80%), 29 targets to the middle (21 completions – 87.5%), and 29 to the right (18 completions – 62%).

 

Here’s how it shapes up by down:

1st down: 15 targets to the left (12 completions – 80%), 15 to the middle (11 completions – 73%), 11 to the right (7 completions – 64%)
2nd Down: 9 attempts to the left (7 completions – 78%), 10 to the middle (8 completions – 80%), 8 to the right (7 completions – 87.5%)
3rd Down: 6 attempts to the left (5 completions – 83%),  4 to the middle (2 completions – 50%), 9 to the right (4 completions – 44%)
4th Down: 1 attempt to the right (incomplete)

  • The Tight Ends :

Once again, a lot of ‘12’ personnel, Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski being almost unstoppable the whole first half. Came the adjustments during the half, and the Chargers D stifled the Brady-led aerial attack. Then, Hernandez got injured, but the ‘12’ personnel continued to shine, even if Dan didn’t draw attention from Tommy 12 in the passing game. That’s not a big deal, look at San Diego’s Tight Ends production. Their 2nd TE had some catches, but Gates didn’t.

What may happen next week against Buffalo :

Hernandez is out for a duration of one to four weeks (depending on the source), so I feel safe to say that there will be significantly less 12 formations in Sunday’s game. I think we’ll see some 12 sets with Dan Gronkowski running a few routes – as opposed to his role the previous two weeks, because he’s had some time to learn the playbook by now. He has said in a recent interview that he has been talking with coaches in the sidelines about stuff that he has never done, and that the coaches expect him to know the playbook. Maybe he’ll see the field as a route-runner. If it is the case, we may see some blown coverages, because Dan has only been called on the field for blocking duties so far.

I’m sure we’ll see a lot more 11 personnel on the field, and if you read the article, that’s not a bad thing! I think Ochocinco will have a good game in the next two weeks, as I said earlier, and the Hernandez injury might just be the decisive factor in his involvement in the game plan. A lot of you guys would love to see Price hit the field, but I’m not so sure about that. Even if he is active, he’ll probably fill the same role as Edelman: he’ll be a backup to Ochocinco, and allow the latter to catch his breath on the sidelines for a play or two. We may also see Price in the 2-minute drill. I mean, last game, Rob Gronk didn’t play in two snaps only, right before the half, following Vince Wilfork’s interception, when there were 9 seconds remaining on the clock. Hernandez was on the field during these two snaps, and I think Price could play the same role: a fast, elusive guy with sure hands. We may finally see the 10 formation! Or the 20 formation in the 2-minute offense if Vereen is active.

The Patriots have been big proponents of the hurry-up offense this season, using the no-huddle an extraordinary 42 of the 138 plays from scrimmage this season over the first two games. The No-Huddle is easier to execute when you’re at home: the offense has a hard time trying to communicate because of the crowd noise on the road.  As a result, we may see less hurry-up offense next week against the Bills. But I don’t think so. Nobody has an answer right now, so let’s just get some W while we can.

I’ll leave you with a little recap of the Offensive Penalties through the first two games:

Listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
Matt Light: two penalties (both holding), 20 yards
Dan Gronkowski: two penalties (both false starts), 10 yards

Nate Solder: one penalty (holding), 10 yards

Rob Gronkowski: one penalty (holding), 10 yards
Chad Ochocinco: one penalty (illegal formation), 5 yards
Deion Branch: one penalty (false start), 5 yards
Brian Waters: one penalty (holding), 5 yards

 

I hoped you enjoyed reading this. I know it’s a lot to process, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Maybe you picked up some trends that I didn’t notice. You may disagree with what I say, or want me to focus on something different next time. Well, it’s your turn to weigh in. 

 

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SBNation.

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