Patriots Snap Count Analysis: Run Game Had Clear Focus Vs. Falcons

Runs to the right and behind a fullback powered New England's ground game

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November 19, 2021

Breaking down snap counts and play percentages from the New England Patriots’ 25-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night:

OFFENSE

— We wondered what kind of role Mike Onwenu would play in this game. The answer: a small one.

The Patriots’ talented second-year O-lineman was on the field for just five offensive snaps, with three of those coming as a jumbo tight end. Right tackle Trent Brown went nearly wire to wire in his second game back from a calf injury, playing all but two snaps.

Runs to the right side — manned by Brown and right guard Shaq Mason — accounted for 104 of the Patriots’ 134 rushing yards in the win, according to Pro Football Focus.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels last week said Onwenu was bumped from the starting lineup because the Patriots planned to use him to spell Brown during their Week 10 win over the Cleveland Browns. That led to speculation that Onwenu could be moved back to left guard — his position for the first several weeks of the season — once Brown was full-go.

So far, though, New England has opted to stick with veteran Ted Karras at left guard. Karras has played well since entering the starting lineup in Week 5, and the Patriots’ line as a whole has excelled of late, giving them little incentive to stray from what’s working. The Falcons sacked quarterback Mac Jones with three well-timed blitzes, but the Patriots allowed just four total pressures in the game, per PFF.

Onwenu should have a long career as a starter in New England, but for now, he’s the odd man out.

— Running backs Damien Harris (10 carries, 58 yards) and Rhamondre Stevenson (12 carries, 69 yards) rotated series and finished with similar stat lines. Four of that duo’s six longest runs — 10 and 13 yards by Stevenson and 14 and 17 yards by Harris — came with fullback Jakob Johnson on the field.

Johnson has played an increasingly significant role in New England’s offense of late. Against Atlanta, he was in for 41% of offensive snaps, tying his season high.

— Jonnu Smith narrowly outsnapped fellow tight end Hunter Henry in his return from a shoulder injury (33 to 32). Those two have settled into distinct roles by this point, with Smith playing mostly as a blocker and Henry playing mostly in passing situations.

Against Atlanta, Smith ran routes on seven of his snaps and run-blocked on 22. Henry ran routes on 21 snaps and run-blocked on seven.

DEFENSE

— J.C. Jackson temporarily left the game after colliding with fellow cornerback Justin Bethel, causing his lower-than-normal snap rate (78%). Joejuan Williams (37%) took his place.

— Rookie Christian Barmore (34 snaps; 63%) has led all Patriots defensive linemen in playing time in all five games of New England’s current winning streak.

— Outside linebacker Chase Winovich saw minimal action in his first game off injured reserve, playing just five defensive snaps.

— Cornerback Shaun Wade saw the first action of his NFL career, checking in for four defensive snaps after the game had been decided. A fifth-round draft pick who was traded to the Patriots late in the preseason, Wade had been inactive for New England’s first 10 games.

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