Over the years, the Patriots have evolved offensively into a spread-emphasized, shotgun-heavy team.
Now, it seems like things are changing. Using a six-game sample, I think there’s real evidence that New England’s shifting the way it plays offense, trying to achieve balance and become less predictable. And it's not just the run-pass ratio, though that explains a lot of it -- The Patriots have run the ball at least 35 times in four of their last six games, after hitting that mark just once in their first nine games.
Start with the Colts game. The Patriots were in three-receiver sets on 41 of their 66 snaps, or 62 percent of the time, in Indy. Here are the numbers since ...
"11" personnel (1 RB/1 TE): 134 of 388 snaps
"12" personnel (1 RB/2 TE): 129 of 388 snaps
"22" personnel (2 RB/2 TE): 52 of 388 snaps
"20" personnel (2 RB/0 TE): 24 of 388 snaps
“21” personnel (2 RB/1 TE): 15 of 388 snaps
"10" personnel (1 RB/0 TE): 12 of 388 snaps
"23" personnel (2 RB/3 TE): 12 of 388 snaps
“13” personnel (1 RB/3 TE): 9 of 388 snaps
“01” personnel (0 RB/1 TE): 1 of 388 snaps
Add it up, and the Patriots have been in three-receiver sets for just 44 percent of their offensive snaps over the last six games.
There are peripheral reasons, of course. The health of offensive line is one, with Stephen Neal and Sebastian Vollmer missing significant time over that stretch. The improvement of Laurence Maroney is another. The sometimes frustrating search for a third receiver is one more.
But there’s also the fundamental idea that the Patriots offense had become predictable. And this would indicate that the problem is getting fixed.
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