Snaps: Gronk effect with 4th option

Snaps played by Patriots skill-position players in the team’s 28-13 AFC Championship Game loss to the Ravens, while analyzing what it means (small margin for error):

QB Tom Brady -- 83 of 83

TE Aaron Hernandez – 83 of 83

WR Brandon Lloyd – 82 of 83

WR Wes Welker – 80 of 83

WR Deion Branch – 39 of 83

RB Stevan Ridley – 35 of 83

RB Danny Woodhead – 31 of 83

TE Daniel Fells – 30 of 83

RB Shane Vereen – 17 of 83

TE Michael Hoomanawanui – 16 of 83

TE Marcus Cannon – 1 of 83

TE Donald Thomas – 1 of 83

(Penalties included. Donald Thomas and Marcus Cannon credited with snaps even though they weren’t eligible receivers.)

ANALYSIS: The main thing that stands out, when coupled with the way targets were distributed, was how the Patriots didn’t have much in the form of a fourth option in the receiving game. That highlights the drop-off from injured tight end Rob Gronkowski to his replacements (WR Deion Branch, TE Michael Hoomanawanui and TE Daniel Fells). Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd were each targeted 14 times, while Wes Welker was targeted 12 times. There was a big drop-off after that. Fells and Hoomanawanui weren’t targeted at all, while Branch was targeted twice on his 39 snaps. This is not an excuse for the Patriots, but more a reflection of how their “next man up” mantra didn’t come to life in the AFC Championship Game. They were naturally an easier offense to defend because of it. Furthermore, Hoomanawanui must have had an undisclosed injury – the guess here is a hamstring based on the “eye” test on film – because he didn’t play a snap after the fourth series of the game.