It wasn't long after the New England Patriots drafted two top-flight tight ends in the second and fourth rounds of the 2010 draft that we saw the terrific advantages this gave the Pats on the offensive end of the football. Their two-TE sets were seemingly impossible for defenses to stop as Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were too big for cornerbacks and too quick for linebackers. Obviously this season, as Hernandez has basically missed six games at this point, the Patriots haven't used that set nearly as often. This proved true once again Sunday as the Pats only went with two tight ends seven times out of 72 snaps, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.
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
I think the reasoning behind this is as simple as head coach Bill Belichick would probably put it to the media... play your best players. Obviously Gronkowski and Wes Welker should be playing a large majority of snaps every game. After those givens, your next best targets are definitely Brandon Lloyd and probably Deion Branch after that, as we saw him haul in a season-high four catches for 30 yards. Obviously once Hernandez is back full-time the Pats will be going right back to a good amount of two-TE sets. But for now, Lloyd and Branch are definitely better targets for Tom Brady than Daniel Fells or Michael Hoomanawanui.