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Playbook Confidential: Personnel and Playcalling @ NE

Hello all, I'm back for another chapter in this series breaking down the playcalling by personnel groups. Unfortunately I was on travel all last week and was unable to do a breakdown after the Vikings game but Orz did a wonderful job covering everything in his article over here.

So a quick preview of some things that will be covered in this article:

  • The Chargers' most predictable personnel group continues to be the most successful
  • The Chargers continue to rely on 2 TE formations
  • And some other observations that came to me as I did my analysis

Join me after the jump for the nitty-gritty details.

If you want a quick refresher on personnel groups, check out the first few paragraphs over here.

First Half

So, here we are again with the first half numbers, to be followed with observations:

Personnel Run Pass
11 9
12 8 7
13 1
21 2 4
22 1
23 1

  • Going against his normal trend of switching formations drastically on the first drive in an effort to gauge the defense's response, Norv actually called 4 straight plays out of 12 personnel. He must have seen a matchup that he liked, and he actually had some success with that as well.
  • Mathews scored his running touchdown out of 12 personnel.
  • The failed 4th down play was the sole 23 personnel play of the game, where Green was subbed in as the 3rd TE. Green got abused at the snap, was pushed into the backfield, causing Hester to get pushed into the backfield as well, and Tolbert to get tripped up for no gain. Thankfully we didn't see this again.
  • The First 3 plays that were run out of 11 personnel resulted in big gains: 2 to Floyd and 1 to Jackson.
  • Once Floyd got hurt, we didn't see the 11 personnel grouping again until the 2 min drive at the end of the half, where it was semi-successful yet again. Walters had a clutch catch, Goodman was open enough to drop the ball twice for sure first downs, then a big play to Jackson, then what would have been a big play to Jackson as he was wide open but was not on the same page as Rivers, then another big play to Jackson. There were 3 plays in there that easily could have been big gains if the receiver could have just held onto the ball or the receiver had run the proper route...the Pats had no answer for the 11 personnel grouping.
  • The 2 min drill ended in a pick by Wilfork, which was the first 12 personnel play after all of the success out of 11 personnel (6 straight plays).
  • Not a single run out of 11 personnel in the first half, yet it was still the most successful.
  • 12 personnel was fairly balanced as far as the run/pass ratio.
  • 2 RB sets (21,22,23) were also balanced as far as the run/pass ratio.
  • 13 runs, 20 passes for a 31% run / 61% pass in the first half.

Second Half

Personnel Run Pass
11 1 9
12 6 14
21 3 2
22 2

  • First thing I noticed about the second half: Walters was the #2 WR...yikes. (I counted 2 drops each for Walters and Goodman...Jackson also had a couple drops but on tougher catches)
  • Norv must have seen things he liked to pass against out of 12 personnel because the first 5 plays out of 12 personnel were all passes, and 12 personnel continued to be pass heavy (maybe it was because the Bolts were playing catchup, as usual).
  • We didn't see the 11 personnel until the end of the 3rd quarter where it resulted in a big 3rd down conversion to Jackson. Then we saw 11 personnel again and it resulted in Jackson's first TD.
  • The majority of Jackson's yardage came out of 11 personnel, roughly 130 of his 170+ yards.
  • Jackson's second TD came out of 12 personnel.
  • When the game was on the line after the 4th down stop, Mathews was in the game for the first two plays where he got a first down and a 7-8 yard gain. Then he was pulled and Tolbert fumbled on the next play. He could have just been getting a breather...initially I thought Norv didn't trust Mathews but I think he was just giving Mathews a breather.

Game Totals

Personnel Run Pass
00 0 0
01 0 0
02 0 0
10 0 0
11 1 (5%) 18 (95%)
12 14 (40%) 21 (60%)
13 1 (100%) 0
20 0 0
21 5 (45%) 6 (55%)
22 3 (100%) 0
23 1 (100%) 0

  • Pretty good balance out of 12 personnel and 21 personnel
  • 11 personnel continues to be predictable yet oddly successful

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here...11 personnel is by far the most successful formation. It borders on unstoppable when Floyd is in the game, since both Jackson and Floyd have shown they can catch the ball even if they are covered. Even without Floyd and with two very inexperienced receivers, 11 personnel continued to be successful. Yet for some reason, Norv refuses to use the 11 personnel grouping unless his back is up against the wall or if he is in the 2 min drill. This personnel grouping spreads out the defense and if they try to shut down Gates (as the Pats did), they will get killed by WR's and RB's (as the Pats did).

If the Pats game taught us anything, it is that the hurry-up offense is incredibly successful when the defense cannot match up against your personnel group. I am not a coach and absolutely not experienced at all with calling football plays, but the difference that I saw between the Chargers and the Pats yesterday is that the Pats found something that worked offensively and exploited it until the defense found a way to stop it. The Chargers, meanwhile, found something that worked, but kept switching away from it.

Here are some numbers from Orz's spreadsheet, which is wonderful:

  • 9.93 yards per attempt (with 3 dropped passes)
  • 19.86 yards per completion
  • 6 First Downs

I would like to see more 11 personnel...A LOT more. We haven't met a defense yet that can stop it, including last season (I believe FO listed the Chargers as the most efficient team out of 11 personnel last season). 11 personnel doesn't give up the ability to pound the defense either, as Mathews and Tolbert both punish a defense when receiving the ball out of the backfield as we saw yesterday. Either of those guys in the open field with a full head of steam really wears down a defense, as the Pats showed us when their DB's were dropping like flies in the 2nd Half.

Other Random Observations

  • The play on which he fumbled is not the only play that Tolbert stutter stepped in the backfield, I counted at least 3 plays. He needs to get back to his fullback style of running the ball.
  • Mathews straight up punished that defense yesterday. He not only used his speed and shiftiness to get yards, but he finished runs by lowering the boom and putting defenders on their backs - and gaining a couple extra yards in the process.
  • Jackson seemed very business-like in his approach to the game yesterday...there was no celebrating after TD's. He just handed the ball to the officials and got back to the sideline. I like that...and I'm sure AJ does too.

Well that's it for this week, folks. Sorry for the long post, but I had a lot of observations. Anywho, I love you hear your feedback and love to hear if you noticed any other trends that I missed out on. Thanks for reading!