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Groupings: Giving up on 2-TE for now?

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Remember all the talk about how the Patriots were revolutionizing the tight end position? It hasn't unfolded that way of late.

Those were the thoughts that came to mind when tabulating the team's positional groupings in Sunday's 37-31 win over the Bills. For the second week in a row, the Patriots went away from their multiple-tight end grouping decisively.

Obviously, part of that is tied to being without Aaron Hernandez (ankle).

Another part of it is game-plan related, as the Patriots are always going to change on a week-to-week basis based on what they feel is the best matchup to exploit the opposition.

And perhaps there is some disappointment with free-agent signing Daniel Fells, who was brought aboard with the idea that the team could maintain its two-TE identity in the event of an injury to Rob Gronkowski and/or Hernandez. Fells was playing behind Michael Hoomanawanui and Visanthe Shiancoe on Sunday.

A look at the groupings vs. the Bills:

3 WR/1 TE/1 RB -- 60 of 72

2 WR/2 TE/1 RB -- 7 of 72

3 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 3 of 72

1 WR/2 TE/1 FB/1 RB -- 2 of 72

(Includes penalties.)

ANALYSIS: Unlike the Sept. 30 meeting between the teams, the Bills declared on the opening snap that they would match the Patriots' 2 WR/2 TE/1 RB package with their base defense (they went with a smaller nickel in the prior meeting). So on the next snap, the Patriots brought on a third receiver (Deion Branch) over a second tight end (Michael Hoomanawanui) to see how the Bills would match it. When the Bills went to their smaller nickel defense, that's the matchup the Patriots were obviously hoping to see because it's what they decided to work against for most of the day. To see how the groupings have evolved over the course of the regular season, this link charts them.