FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When looking at the positional groupings utilized by the Patriots in their 31-27 win over the Packers, one aspect jumps off the page. All three offensive touchdowns came out of the same package -- two receivers, two tight ends, one running back.
That's the Patriots' base grouping, but as has been the case for long stretches of the season, they do different things out of it.
For example, BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 33-yard touchdown run came out of an unconventional formation in which the Patriots bunched receiver Wes Welker and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Alge Crumpler tight to the right side of the line, with Crumpler and Welker standing upright, and Gronkowski crouched as if was a hybrid extra lineman/fullback. Quarterback Tom Brady is under center and as he hands the ball off, the force that Crumpler and Gronkowski generate as run blockers is impressive.
Meanwhile, on Aaron Hernandez' 2-yard touchdown later in the second quarter, Brady is in the shotgun and he has Gronkowski lined up on the inside of Wes Welker to the left and Hernandez lined up on the inside of Branch to the right in a compact formation for a four-wide look.
Finally, on Hernandez's 10-yard touchdown catch, the Patriots had Branch and Welker lined up to the right side, with Gronkowski on the line of scrimmage to that strong side. Hernandez initially lined up on the left side of the line, before motioning out wide to the left as a receiver at the same time Brady moved from under center into the shotgun. That set up a one-on-one matchup against cornerback Sam Shields that was exploited.
So it was one positional grouping and three different looks -- all of which produced touchdowns. Impressive. It reflects how the versatility of the team's tight ends is opening up various possibilities for play-caller Bill O'Brien and Brady at the line of scrimmage.
A look at the positional groupings utilized throughout the game:
3 WR/1 TE/1 RB -- 19 of 44 (12 first half/7 second half)
2 WR/2 TE/1 RB -- 18 of 44 (11 first half/7 second half)
1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 3 of 44 (1 first half/2 second half)
4 WR/1 RB -- 2 of 44 (1 first half/1 second half)
3 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 1 of 44 (1 first half/0 second half)
1 WR/3 TE/1 RB -- 1 of 44 (0 first half/1 second half)