Pats Offensive Statistics
Week 11 is upon us and the Buffalo Bills are set to take on our most hated rival– the New England Patriots. The Bills have only won 2 games out of 26 since Tom Brady has been the quarterback. We all know that stopping Tom Brady will be the key to a win versus the Pats. Brady leads the second rated offense in the league averaging 418.7 yds/game. Most of their yards comes through Tom Brady and the passing game; the Pats average 325.9 yards through the air a game. Which has put them as the top rated scoring offense averaging 33.7 pts/game.
Brady has thrown for 3,043 yds, 24 TDs and a measly 3 INTs. His top two targets are no surprise; Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Edelman has had a great year but will not play versus Buffalo because he broke his foot vs. the Giants. So expect to see Danny Amendola filling his role in the coming weeks. Amendola has 40 catches for 403 yds and 2 TDs. Gronk currently has 49 catches for 806 yds and 8 TDs. He boasts a 16.4 yds/catch average! In the first meeting between the Bills and Pats, Dobson had 7 catches for 87 yds, most vs. Gilmore. 4 catches for 38 yds against Gilmore. Expect to see that match-up again. With RB Dion Lewis out for the year the Pats have turned to Legarrette Blount in the run game. He has carried the ball 117 times for 583 yds and 6 TDs. That’s an average of 4.4 yards a carry. He was a large part of the Pats game plan versus the Gmen last week carrying the ball 19 times for 66 yds and 1 TD, he provided nice balance for Tom Brady.
In the first meeting this year where the Pats whooped the Bills 40-32 Brady threw for 466 yds through the air. They had 15 possessions and ran a whopping 76 plays. That is way too many possessions to give that offense. The Bills only sacked Brady 2 times but did cause 2 turnovers on the game. The last regular season loss that the Pats suffered was last year to the Bills, but for statistical purposes I will not use that game because the Pats sat some starters. The loss prior to that was versus the Packers. In that game the Packers only allowed the Pats to run 54 plays on 9 drives. The Packers won 26-24. In the other loss the Pats suffered in 2014 was vs. the Chiefs where the Pats were limited to 11 drives with a total of 49 plays. The Bills will have to use that approach in this game. Limit the Pats possessions to 10-12 and thus limiting the quantity of plays run. This is a common approach but it will be no different come week 11. So how do you execute a game-plan that limits the Pats drives?
Well your offense must posses the ball, but that will be discussed in the offensive scouting report. The defense in my opinion must hold the Pats under 100 yds on the ground on around 20 carries. Let me explain, if the Pats gain 70-80 yds on the ground in the game on about 20 carries that means that Brady isn’t throwing it as much but at the same time it is shortening the game. For example the Packers allowed 84 rushing yds on 18 carries in that 2014 meeting and in the other loss vs. the Chiefs, the Pats only gained 75 yds on 16 attempts. Limiting the possessions and amount of plays run will help lead to winning the time of possession battle. In those two losses last year the opposing teams possessed the ball for over 36 minutes and that will limit Brady.
The Bills in the 2nd week match-up faced Brady’s passing prowess a total of 59 times. Yes, they passed it 59 times and completed 38 times with 3 TDs. That is not a recipe for success, that means the ball is in the hands of the Pats best player 76 total offensive plays. So the Bills must reduce the amount of times the ball is in Brady’s hands, but when it is in hands the Bills must limit his productivity. So lets take a look at some advanced statistics on Tom Brady and see if there are chinks in his or that offense’s armor.
To slow down Brady you must be firing on all cylinders. You must have solid personnel on the field versus their weapons, you must disguise your defense and you have to tackle well. All of these advanced statistics are from Pro Football Focus. Blount is 10th in the league in missed tackles on rushes with a total of 24. He is a big back and the defense must gang tackle a guy like him. Blount has been in on 206 snaps this season and his run/pass ratio is 121/55, so it is safe to safe that when he is in expect the Pats to run the ball. He has been in on 60% and 52% of the teams snaps the last two games respectively. What is even more telling on the RB situation in New England, is the back up situation being split between James White and Brandon Bolden. James White is supposed to be filling the role left by the Lewis injury. White has been in a total of 98 plays (75 of those snaps in last 2 games) and the run/pass ratio is 9/60. He is primarily a pass threat, so expect pass when he is in the game. Bolden has had a minor role, he has 40 snaps (20 in last two games) for a run/pass ratio 8/30 he is also used in the pass game.
With Edelman out the Bills can now focus on shutting down Rob Gronkowski. In the last meeting Gronk caught 7 balls for 113 yds and 1 TD. Rex Ryan has had to scheme vs. Gronk for many years now, but not many times without Edelman. In 2014 the Jets lost to the Pats 17-16. In that match-up, Rex and the Jets played the Pats and Edelman didn’t play. In that game Gronk was thrown at 10 times for 6 receptions for 31 yds and 1 TD. The Pats targeted him in the middle of the field 7 different times where he caught 4 and gained 27 of his yards. So with Edelman out this week I could see the Pats using Gronk in the middle of the field.
The Pats are notorious for attacking the middle of the field. Gronk has been targeted 25 times from 0-9 yds in the middle of the field and he has caught 19 of them for 2 TDs (Edelman leads the team in that area with 20 catches out of 28 targets). The Bills will need to defend the middle of the field versus this monster. I will discuss some schematic ways to slow down Gronk later. As for Tom Brady, slowing him down will be difficult. If the weapons he throws to can be limited it will affect how well he plays. But teams always wonder what is the best way to attack/game-plan a future hall of game QB when he has seen it all?
I am going to revert back to 2014 when Rex Ryan was with the Jets. Their personnel is very similar to ours and I think he had a great game-plan versus Tom Brady. In that game Brady was 23-35 for 182 yds and he had 1 TD and 1 INT. Brady had one of his worst QB rated games all season in that match-up vs. Rex. Rex in that game blitzed under 20% of the time, which was 8/41 pass attempts. When Brady wasn’t blitzed it led to a QBR of 70.4 and he was sacked 4 times. In the Bills week 2 meeting with the Pats, Rex used a similar approach and only blitzed 26% which was 16/61 attempts. Fast forward to this weeks match-up, the Bills will need to follow that approach and not blitz Brady. Brady has seen all of the blitzes possible and he sees the field well. He is able to get rid of the ball to the right guy for big plays when teams blitz him. On the year Brady has dropped back to pass 396 plays, and on those plays teams didn’t blitz 296 times. 16/23 sacks that Brady has taken were when he wasn’t blitzed. So the Bills need to generate pressure without bringing an extra defender. The extra defender allocated to coverage will cause Brady to hold the ball longer and let the 4 defensive lineman to get to him. So with the numbers out of the way and an idea on what the Bills need to do lets see if we can find some schematic ways to accomplish those tasks.
Brady Struggles vs. 3-3-5 looks
The Patriots have juggled starters on their offensive line all year. So conventional wisdom says that you need to blitz and confuse them. Which is true, when you blitz you must be effective. But because Brady gets the ball out of his hands so quickly, blitzing in essence hurts yourself because you take defenders out of coverage. So teams try to play coverage versus Brady. The Bills should take this approach.
Lets start with the personnel. Not having Kyle Williams has made it difficult for the Bills to create pressure with just four defensive lineman. But a luxury that we have gained was an extra DB in our lineup; Leodis Mckelvin.When the Pats are in 11 or 12 personnel (specifically with Chandler as 2nd TE) the Bills should be expecting pass. Having Mckelvin back will allow Rex to use some exotic nickel and dime packages. This was shown in the Jets game. He can use a 3-3-5 look to disguise where the 4th guy is rushing from. This has caused Brady and their lineman some trouble when Rex was with the Jets. There is no coincidence that 3 out of 4 of their last regular season losses were versus 3-4 teams. Those kind of defenses sometimes cause Brady trouble because when they rush four defenders you don’t know where that 4th defender is coming from. The Bills will need to use this defensive package in key passing situations to make Brady hold the ball a half second longer. What is also great about using the 3-3-5 defense is that we have Mckelvin helping in coverage and we still have the luxury of having Rambo or Graham near the LOS but able to play man on the back end. Here is what it looks like.
Here is an example of Rex using hybrid/exotic looks to confuse the Pats lineman and Brady from their match-up last year.
Here the Bills are using base nickel (4-2-5). This allows Mckelvin to help vs. 3 or 4 wide sets. Something the Pats use a lot of. Plus it allows the Bills to have 4 down lineman to help if they run it.
You have now seen the ways that Rex Ryan can confuse Brady at the line of scrimmage (LOS). Using hybrid players who have the ability to rush or drop into coverage can create havoc at the LOS. But it also causes issues when those players are dropping into zones or sitting on crossing routes as underneath coverage help. Rex was hired for this reason alone, create exotic looks to slow down Brady and his reads. Now that we have the DBs to help on the back end versus the Pats weapons we will see how Rex’s scheme pans out. The next area that needs to be game-planned is how the Bills defense will handle Gronk.
Make It Tough on Gronk
Gronk In-line TE
This is easier said than done. There isn’t one player in the league that can completely shut him down. Partly because the Pats scheme so well to get him open, party because he is just a gifted player. What you have to do as a coordinator is use multiple players to cover him. In the last meeting of the Jets and Pats, Ryan used 7 different players to cover Gronk. So here is how the team must defend Gronk. First things first, if he is in line at the TE position you MUST get your hands on him with a LB or DE. Take a look:
In the red zone just double team him. Our DBs should be good enough to hold up versus the other WRs especially in the short field.
Gronk Split Wide
Gronk is also utilized out wide as a receiver. Anytime that Gronk is split wide get Ronard Darby on him. You may think to yourself but the height difference!!! That was not a big factor in the last meeting. Darby was on Gronk on 4 occasions where Gronk was thrown at, and Gronk only had 1 catch for 36 yds. That play Darby was in zone coverage and he had deep third and Gronk shot down the seam and Darby was a step late. Darby was 1 on 1 with Gronk with no help at all take a look:
Another way the Pats use Gronk, is split wide in the pass game to set picks or rubs so that the slot WR can get to the flats. This is one of the oldest route combos in the game, slant/flat and the Pats run it better than anyone.
Finally, anytime Gronk is in the slot, he typically is there to clear a zone. He will run a streak and take the LB and safety with him so that a WR can run a crossing route under him. Usually that’s Edelman or Amendola. Our LBs need to be cognizant of crossing routes when Gronk is in the slot.
The Giants barely lost to the Pats last weekend. But many fans are looking to their game-plan to see if there is anything that we can do to put us in a position to win. The answer is yes, I mentioned the 4 man rush, disguising the rush and the last portion of it is tight man coverage. The Giants have always played a scheme that utilized man coverage usually bump and run coverage. That kind of coverage makes throws to the WRs much tougher because the windows are tighter. By bumping the WRs, it gets WRs of their mark or route. By getting them off their mark it throws off the timing between the QB and WR especially an offensive system like the Pats that uses west coast principles. Take a look at some tight man coverage:
Utilizing tight man coverage is most important on 2nd and 3rd and 6 or more. You have to interrupt the timing of the offense. These play calls take a second longer to develop so by getting your hands on the WR could cause Brady to hold it and try to look to his second or third WR.
Pats Run Game
Legarrette Blount carried the ball 19 times for 66 yards and 1 TD versus the Giants. You could tell that with the injury to Dion Lewis and to an extent Edelman, that the Giants began to shift their offensive attack to Blount. When Blount is in they like to employ a power run game, primarily with a guard pulling. Their best pulling guard is Shaq Mason, he can pull really well and packs quite the punch when engaging.
In the Giants game they ran a lot more of 2 and 3 TEs than usual. When their back up TE Michael Williams is in they ran the ball 57% of the time. I expect the Pats to utilize a heavy dose of 2 and 3 TE sets to negate the Bills pressure packages. They will also likely try to attack DT Corbin Bryant because he has trouble holding the point of attack. Here is how the Pats will attack our 4-3 under defense:
When the offense is in 12 or 13 personnel the Bills defense will most likely be in a 4-3 under/variation or a 4-6 bear defense. One way the Pats will attack this is with misdirection run plays. Start the play one direction then cut it back. The 4-3 under is great to the strength of the offensive formation. But it does have bubbles on the backside and the Pats will attack the bubble just like they did against the Giants. The Gmen run a similar form of 4-3 under defense, take a look:
The Pats will most likely try to pound Blount versus the Bills without Lewis and Edelman. This is what makes defending the Pats so difficult, you don’t know how they will attack you. But the only pass catching play-makers are Gronk so the Pats will try and become more run oriented to free up the outside WRs. With the Bills dedicating soo much against the run that will open it up outside for Lafell, Dobson and Amendola. The run game in my opinion will be what sets up the run game for the rest of the year for the Pats.
Patriot week is always a nerve wracking week. But after watching a ton of film on the Bills and the Pats and how both teams have evolved since week two I am optimistic on how our team will play. The Bills must disguise who the 4th rusher will be in order to confuse Brady and the Pats line. The DBs must be able to play tight man coverage and make plays on the ball without very little help over the top. Gronk will be the play-maker to stop and that will take a team effort. You must get hands on him when he is in-line, put Darby on him when he aligned wide, watch the slant/flat combo when split out and the seam route when he is in the slot because he clears the zone for underneath routes. With the injuries to Lewis and Edelman and the cold weather on its way the Pats are shifting their strategies on offense. They are now committing more resources to the run game led by Legarrette Blount. They have relied on his power running to bring balance to their offense without their play-makers in the pass game. The Bills will need to scheme to shut down the run game out of 12 and 13 personnel groupings. They can do that with disciplined run fits in the 4-3 under or with the 4-6 personnel grouping.
The recipe to beat the Pats is all there for this Monday. The Bills run game and tempo controlling offense. A defense that can stop the run versus a team that is establishing its running offense this time of the year. The Pats are missing key offensive players that torched them in the first meeting. Rex was brought here for one thing; to BEAT THE PATS. He has had moderate success slowing down Brady at times, but hasn’t put too many complete games on offense and defense to win. Well he now has the athletes, coaches and schemes to challenge Belichick and the Pats, question is can he and his staff out-coach the Pats? The in game adjustments will show whether or not he cando that. I can’t wait for this much awaited rematch. I like the Bills chances, this game is a big opportunity to establish a foundation of winning for years to come…..