On Sunday night, the New England Patriots had to leave the field in defeat for the first time all season: the team was beaten with a final score of 37-20 by the Baltimore Ravens, while playing a sloppy game on both sides of the ball. While the Patriots had their fair share of issues, not all was as bad as the final score might indicate — and the personnel usage on offense in combination with the battle plan is one reason to feel good even after defeat.
With that being said, let’s dig a little deeper into the snap count numbers from the game to get an impression of how the Patriots used their players.
Total snaps: 67
OC Ted Karras (67; 100%), OT Marshall Newhouse (67; 100%), OT Marcus Cannon (67; 100%), OG Shaq Mason (67; 100%), OG Joe Thuney (67; 100%), QB Tom Brady (67; 100%), WR Mohamed Sanu (67; 100%), TE Benjamin Watson (67; 100%), WR Julian Edelman (67; 100%), WR Phillip Dorsett II (66; 99%), RB James White (28; 42%), RB Rex Burkhead (24; 36%), RB Sony Michel (15; 22%), WR Jakobi Meyers (1; 1%)
With some exceptions, the Patriots usually like to change personnel in order to get the best possible matchups. Against Baltimore, however, none of this happened as the team played exclusively out of an 11-personnel group with Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett as the top three options at wide receiver, and Benjamin Watson as the lone tight end to see action. The backfield, meanwhile, saw a three-man rotation.
The plan actually worked well for New England in combination with the up-tempo approach that was used: the team moved the football effectively for most of the final three quarters of the game, as conditioning became an issue for the Ravens. While it ultimately did not help the team come away with a victory, it certainly was a positive development for an offense that had struggled to find its groove over the recent weeks.
Part of the reason for the Patriots using 11-personnel as their package of choice also was the situation at tight end: with Watson being the only player at the position to take snaps on Sunday, the team had limited options. Either way, however, the package worked well for the team and could be prominently featured moving forward.
Total snaps: 70
FS Devin McCourty (69; 99%), LB Kyle Van Noy (68; 97%), CB Stephon Gilmore (66; 94%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (62; 89%), LB Dont’a Hightower (55; 79%), DT Lawrence Guy (53; 76%), CB Jason McCourty (45; 64%), LB John Simon (42, 60%), DT Danny Shelton (41; 59%), DT Adam Butler (40; 57%), FS Duron Harmon (38; 54%), CB Jonathan Jones (29; 41%), CB J.C. Jackson (29; 41%), SS Patrick Chung (27; 39%), LB Elandon Roberts (24; 34%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (23; 33%), SS Terrence Brooks (22; 31%), DT Byron Cowart (21; 30%), LB Chase Winovich (9; 13%), LB Shilique Calhoun (7; 10%)
The Patriots’ plan to stop the Ravens’ ground game involved plenty of base looks on defense, which in turn led to the defensive tackles seeing increased playing time: Lawrence Guy played 76% of defensive snaps while Danny Shelton and Adam Butler saw 59% and 57%, respectively. Even rookie Byron Cowart joined in on the action and played 30% of the snaps — his highest playing total of the season.
As a result of the plan, the usage of the defensive backs also differed from weeks past. Stephon Gilmore did play his usual high number of snaps, but the other cornerbacks were rotated more: Jason McCourty was on the field for just 64% of the action, Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson for 41%, and Patrick Chung for only 39%. The usage of the veteran certainly is curious considering his role as a safety/linebacker hybrid.
Even though New England wanted to go big against the run, however, Baltimore was still able to generate a consistent push on the ground. The big personnel had a hard time keeping up with the speed in the Ravens’ backfield and was at times out of position to make plays on the ballcarriers. Needless to say that the Patriots’ coaches will have some evaluation to do, and some work on fundamentals ahead of them.
Total snaps: 30
CB Justin Bethel (26; 87%), FS Nate Ebner (26; 87%), LB Shilique Calhoun (21; 70%), RB Brandon Bolden (19; 63%), WR Matthew Slater (19; 63%), RB Rex Burkhead (17; 57%), DE Chase Winovich (17; 57%), P Jake Bailey (14; 47%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (13; 43%), FS Devin McCourty (12; 40%), DE John Simon (12; 40%), CB Jonathan Jones (12; 40%), LB Elandon Roberts (12; 40%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (12; 40%), SS Terrence Brooks (12; 40%), DT Adam Butler (9; 30%), LS Joe Cardona (9; 30%), CB Jason McCourty (7; 23%), RB James White (5; 15%), OC Ted Karras (4; 13%), OT Marshall Newhouse (4; 13%), OT Marcus Cannon (4; 13%), DT Danny Shelton (4; 13%), OC James Ferentz (4; 13%), OG Jermaine Eluemunor (4; 13%), K Nick Folk (4; 13%), WR Mohamed Sanu (2; 7%), RB Sony Michel (2; 7%), CB J.C. Jackson (2; 7%)
The Patriots used 29 players in the kicking game on Sunday, with nine of them playing exclusively on special teams. This is comparatively high number when looking back at the first eight weeks of the season — one that does not just include the three specialists but also core members Justin Bethel, Nate Ebner, Brandon Bolden and Matthew Slater as well as rotational offensive linemen James Ferentz and Jermaine Eluemunor.
What also stands out when looking at the special teams playing time distribution is the usage of Jake Bailey: even with Nick Folk being brought in as a new kicker this week, the team opted to keep its rookie punter as the kickoff specialist. Furthermore, the Patriots used trade acquisition Mohamed Sanu as a punt returner on Sunday night in light of regular returnman Gunner Olszewski missing the game because of injury.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham, TE Ryan Izzo, DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
New England had 46 man active against the Ravens, but used only 43 of them: backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, tight end Ryan Izzo and defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. did not see the field all game long. Tis is not all that big of a surprise, though, considering that Stidham rarely sees the field as the number two behind Tom Brady while Izzo served as an emergency-only option coming off a two-game absence because of a concussion. Wise Jr, meanwhile, is more of a pass rusher and did not quite fit into a run-first defensive approach.
QB Cody Kessler, RB Damien Harris, WR N’Keal Harry, WR Gunner Olszewski, TE Matt LaCosse, OT Korey Cunningham, CB Joejuan Williams
The biggest name on the Patriots’ list of inactive players for Sunday’s game was wide receiver N’Keal Harry. The team’s first-round draft pick was activated to the 53-man roster from injured reserve on Saturday, but was apparently not yet ready to play in a game. Harry was joined on the list of inactives by two players dealing with injuries — Matt LaCosse, Gunner Olszewski — and four healthy scratches.