After the New England Patriots acquired wide receiver Josh Gordon last month, we wondered how long it would take for him to emerge as a starter. The answer was less than four weeks.
After acquiring Gordon from the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 17, New England has eased the big wideout into action, with 18 snaps per contest in Weeks 5 and 6. Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, however, Gordon started and played 63 of a possible 78 offensive snaps.
He trailed just Julian Edelman (71) in snaps among wide receivers in Week 6. Chris Hogan, who was on the field for 47 offensive snaps, was the team’s No. 3 wideout. Cordarrelle Patterson finished with six offensive snaps, while Phillip Dorsett saw just three plays.
Before Gordon emerged, and Edelman returned from a four-game suspension last week, Hogan and Dorsett took on much larger roles.
So, what’s the Patriots’ new-look offense look like?
Let’s break it down by personnel package first (the first digit is the number of running backs. The second digit is the number of tight ends. So, an 11 personnel package is one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers). These numbers include penalties.
The Patriots switched up their formations frequently, but Gordon mostly stayed at “X” receiver. An “X” receiver aligns on the line of scrimmage on the weak side.
We counted Gordon lining up as the “X” on 54 of his 63 snaps. Otherwise, he lined up in the slot or at “Z.”
Edelman and Hogan split “Z” and slot responsibilities.
Gordon was targeted once from the “Z” and once from the slot. He didn’t catch either target. Gordon caught four passes on six targets for 42 yards from the “X” role. He also drew his 37-yard pass interference penalty from the “X.”
Edelman caught three passes on five targets for 40 yards and a touchdown from the slot. He caught one 14-yard pass on two targets from the “Z” role.
Hogan caught three passes on three targets for 68 yards from the slot. He caught one 10-yard pass on one target from “Z.”
Here are some of the Patriots’ more unique formations.
— This play, with Edelman in the backfield, resulted in a 16-yard completion to Gronkowski.
— This play, with Develin in the backfield, Gronkowski as the “X” and White as the “Z,” resulted in an incompletion to Gordon, who had to break up the pass from being intercepted.
— This play, with Edelman in the backfield again, resulted in a 19-yard catch by Hogan. It’s an interesting wrinkle from the Patriots.
Here are some more notes from our film review:
— Edelman has already made a major impact on the Patriots’ offense. They’re averaging 1.8 more yards per pass and 1.02 more yards per run with him on the field.
— The Patriots rushed the ball 38 times for 173 yards for 4.6 yards per carry. We think they probably should have run the ball even more.
Up 27-19 with 3:36 left in the third quarter, the Patriots started a drive with an 11-yard carry by James White. Tom Brady then threw two consecutive deep balls on the Patriots’ ensuing set of downs. On third down, Brady dropped back and waited for a receiver to get open. Rather than throwing it away, Brady ate a strip-sack and lost the ball at New England’s 29-yard line. The Chiefs quickly scored a touchdown, trimming the Patriots’ lead down to one point.
The Patriots won Sunday night, but it didn’t need to get as close as it did. The Chiefs even came back and led 33-30 at one point. Logically, the Patriots should have been trying to drain the clock and maintain their lead while up by eight points. Instead, the Patriots went for a deep kill shot, and it wound up almost costing them.
The Patriots’ offensive line had absolutely no problem creating holes against the Chiefs’ defensive line. That’s why Michel was able to carry the ball 24 times for 106 yards while only breaking two tackles and averaging just 2.54 yards after contact. Michel still had a solid game. His vision and power were particularly impressive.
— Tight end Rob Gronkowski also was fantastic as a blocker.
— The biggest difference between the play of the Patriots’ defense in the first and second half was big plays. We went over what went wrong in many of those on Monday morning. It’s still unclear, even after the coaches film was released, what happened on Tyreek Hill’s fourth quarter 75-yard touchdown catch.
— It’s a little hard to see what’s happening there, but Patriots safety Duron Harmon is in the deep middle of the field, and Hill is on the Patriots logo. Patriots defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty are covering Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce on the far-side 40-yard line. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is covering Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins at the 45-yard line. Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones is standing on the near-side 40-yard line. Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung are in the middle of the field.
There appeared to be some presnap confusion between Hightower and linebacker Kyle Van Noy. It appeared Hightower was pointing at Kelce and yelling at Van Noy before the play. Van Noy briefly dropped in coverage then rushed Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It’s unclear if Jason McCourty should have dropped to help out Harmon, or if the Patriots simply trusted Harmon to cover the deep half of the field on his own since he was so far back. He was actually behind Hill when the catch was made.
Hill simply then ran past him, and no other Patriots defender could catch up.
The play gave the Patriots three minutes to drive down the field and kick the game-winning field goal, so it all worked out in the end.
Hill is the fastest player in the NFL, and the Patriots might not need to deal with a situation like this again until they play the Chiefs down the line, whenever that might be.
— Patriots guards Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney played very well.
— Patriots defensive end Adrian Clayborn forced two third-down incompletions with pressure on Mahomes.
— Some Patriots defenders who shined: Gilmore, cornerback Eric Rowe, linebacker Elandon Roberts and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy.
— Devin McCourty let up two more touchdowns Sunday night, both to Hill. He was put in a tough position guarding Hill by himself, but both catches came in the red zone when Hill’s speed should be more contained.