Monday Night Intelligence

By Lance Zierlein
December 10, 2012

Lance Zierlein takes an in-depth look at MNF's Texans/Patriots groupings and tendencies, previewing tonight's game.

Editor's Note: STATS ICE team grouping and tendency information is provided by John Pollard from STATS, Inc.

Texans Keys To Victory

  1. The pass rush needs to be "Mercilus" - The Texans know what they are going to get from J.J. Watt, but what the Texans really need is for rookie outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus to win pass rush battles against left tackle Nate Solder.  Solder has issues with pass rusher who can bend and get low around the edge and he's also susceptible to inside moves at times.  While the Texans may get push in the pocket from the interior, Mercilus needs to apply edge pressure to keep Tom Brady from sliding cleanly around the pocket.
  2. Arian by ground, Arian by air - Arian Foster still runs just as hard as every, but he's having to work for every yard he gets this year.  The good news for the Texans is that Foster seems to love "spotlight" games.  Foster has rushed for 100+ yards in three nationally televised games that were all on the road (Jets, Bears and Lions).  Over the last two seasons, Foster was just as reliable a receiver as he was a runner but this year, he's seen his catches and receiving yards plummet.  With weather conditions a potential problem, the Texans would be wise to target their workhorse out of the backfield as well.
  3. Find the second fiddle - Andre Johnson has cranked it back up over the second half of the season and there is no question that Gary Kubiak would love for Johnson to put together a signature game in Foxboro.  Johnson will likely find himself matched up against cover-corner Aqib Talib which means that Matt Schaub has an opportunity to exploit cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and the rest of the secondary.  It wouldn't surprise me if Kevin Walter or Owen Daniels ended up playing a bigger role than Johnson.

Patriots Keys To Victory

  1. The offense needs low "Wattage" - The Patriots struggled at times last weekend with the Miami Dolphins pass rush and Brady was sacked three times.  New England doesn't want to see a repeat of those issues and they know that the key to keeping Brady clean will be to keep Watt occupied with consistent double teams and quick throws.  Right guard Dan Connolly should be back which will help the pass protection, but the Patriots have to slide protection to Watt and utilize a running back to help as well.  I will guarantee you that the Patriots will be prepared to cut Watt on quick-hit pass plays in order to keep him from batting passes.
  2. Play it safe, safeties - The Patriots are no strangers to shaky safety play over the last couple of years and they must get sound, consistent play this weekend from both Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory.  Gregory has a tendency to get over-aggressive at times in run support which makes him vulnerable to play-action shots down the field.  Gregory and McCourty would be well advised to think pass support ahead of run support for much of the game because the Texans love to take play-action shots down the field against undisciplined safeties.  Run support from the Patriots safeties is overrated in this game.
  3. Brandon Lloyd needs to awaken - When Brandon Lloyd signed with the Patriots, I fully anticipated that he would have an enormous impact on the offense with his ability to get open vertically.  Instead, Lloyd has followed suit in a long line of wide receivers not named Wes Welker who have put together solid games here and there, but nothing consistent.  Lloyd has gone over 70 yards receiving just twice this year, but with a one-on-one matchup against Kareem Jackson possible, Lloyd could be targeted than he has been over his last six games.

Keep An Eye Out

The Texans usually like to throw teams off by throwing from their three TE look, but with Garrett Graham out, they will have to find another form of misdirection.  Keep an eye out for the Texans to get rookie WR Keyshawn Martin involved with a reverse/end around early in the game.  The rookie excels on those plays and it might give the Texans a big play that they will need on bad footing.

The Patriots will pour over film to try and find defensive tendencies that they can use in their favor via matchups.  The Texans run defense against teams who spread the field has not been good so look for the Patriots to throw towards the boundaries early on to loosen up the Texans and then to slam the running game at them out of the shotgun.

Houston Texans

Personnel Groupings

  • The Texans use their 21 grouping (2 RB / 1 TE / 2 WRs) on 42.3% of their total plays
  • The Texans use their 12 grouping (1 RB / 2 TE / 2 WRs) on 22.4% of their total plays
  • The Texans use their 11 grouping (1 RB / 1 TE / 3 WRs) on 21.2% of their total plays

What it means - The Texans use one of these three groupings 86% of the time they are on the field, but with TE Garrett Graham out for this contest, we may see the Texans in 21 and 11 groupings for most of the game.  Gary Kubiak likes to use groupings and formations to create mismatches and confusion and his offense is built to take advantage of that.  With the Texans likely using their 11 grouping, that means that they will have three WRs on the field more often than usual which forces New England into a nickel package more frequently.  While the Patriots secondary is their weakness, it is also means that Kubiak won't have ability to use his formation misdirection as much as he likes.

Tendencies and Play Success

* Here are the definitions of a successful play:
1st down:  Gain 40% or more of the yardage needed for a first down
2nd down:  Gain 50% or more of the yardage needed for a first down
3rd down/4th down:  Convert 1st down

  • The Texans run the ball 57.2% of the time out of their 21 grouping and are successful on 55.4% of those runs.
  • The Texans throw the ball 55.1% of the time out of their 12 grouping and are successful on 61.2% of those throws.
  • The Texans run the ball just 29.4% of the time out of their 11 grouping but have a miserable success rate of 37.9% of those runs.  (some will be 3rd and long draw plays)
  • The Texans run the ball 48.8% of the time on 2nd down, but have a very high success rate of 57.5% on those runs.
  • Based on the packages they use most, the Texans have the highest percentage of successful plays out of their 12 grouping (58.3%)
  • Based on the packages they use most, the Texans have the lowest percentage of successful plays out of their 11 grouping (37.9%)
  • The Texans follow up successful running plays with another successful run play 65% of the time, but only 9.5% of the time out of the same formation.

Average Yards Gained By Personnel Groupings

  • 21 Grouping:  42.3% of total plays - 5.4 yards per gain
  • 12 Grouping:  22.4% of total plays - 6.6 yards per gain
  • 11 Grouping:  21.2% of total plays - 6.5 yards per gain
  • 01 (empty set): 1.9% of total plays - 12.2 yards per gain

New England Patriots

Personnel Groupings

  • The Patriots use their 11 grouping (1 RB / 1 TE / 3 WRs) on 53% of their total plays
  • The Patriots use their 12 grouping (1 RB / 2 TE / 3 WRs) on 37.5% of their total plays

What it means - With the Patriots utilizing just two groupings for 90.5% of the snaps they are on the field, it is clear that the Patriots want to get their best players on the field for as many snaps as possible.  Even with Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman in this one, I still expect to see the Patriots stay in these two groupings because that is how they are built.  The Patriots 11 and 12 groupings means that the Texans will have to stay in a nickel or dime defense for most of the game.  The Patriots are unusually successful at running out of their 11 set so it will be interesting to see who Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has out on the field in nickel.  Will it be an extra safety or an extra cornerback for one of the starting linebackers or will he alter his defensive front?

Tendencies and Play Success

* Here are the definitions of a successful play:
1st down:  Gain 40% or more of the yardage needed for a first down
2nd down:  Gain 50% or more of the yardage needed for a first down
3rd down/4th down:  Convert 1st down

  • The Patriots run the ball 33.8% of the time out of their 11 grouping, but they are successful on 53.8% of those runs.
  • The Patriots run the ball a whopping 58.1% of the time out of their 12 grouping with an outstanding success rate of 56.8% of those runs.
  • The Patriots throw the ball just 41.9% of the time out of their 12 grouping and they are successful on 52.6% of those throws.
  • The Patriots run the ball just 27.5% of the time on 3rd downs, but are successful on 61.7% of those rush attempts.
  • Based on the packages they use most, the Patriots have the highest percentage of successful plays out of their 12 grouping (55%)
  • Based on the packages they use most, the Patriots have the lowest percentage of successful plays out of their 11 grouping (53%)
  • The Patriots follow up successful passing plays with another successful pass play only 41.9% of the time, but only 9.5% of the time.

Average Yards Gained By Personnel Groupings

  • 11 Grouping:  53% of total plays - 6.3 yards per gain
  • 12 Grouping:  37.5% of total plays - 6.0 yards per gain
  • 13 Grouping:  5.2% of total plays - 4.1 yards per gain
  • 02 (empty set): 1.8% of total plays - 5.1 yards per gain

Houston Texans' Photo Credit

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