As the New England Patriots savor their 14-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Monday at Highmark Stadium, (improving their record to 9-4 on the 2021 season) they continue to take stock into their performance on both sides of the ball.
Heading into their much needed and well-deserved bye week, there are plenty of areas in which the Patriots will seek improvement. While game-film analysis will be the main focus, a look at playing time may assist the Pats in helping to devise effective strategies moving forward.
Here is a look at the Patriots offensive and defensive snap counts from Monday’s matchup, along with some possible insight on New England’s future game-planning.
On offense, the Pats snap count was 51 versus the Bills on Monday night, the lowest offensive snap count for the Pats in 2021, thus far.
The Patriots offensive line clearly earned their keep on Monday night, as the starting five of left tackle Isaish Wynn, left guard Ted Karras, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Trent Brown took every offensive snap for New England. Michael Onwenu also saw action on 61 percent of the Pats offensive plays, logging duty both as the Pats sixth offensive lineman, as well as occasionally aligning at tight end.
Collectively rushing for 217 yards on Monday night, the Patriots running backs were the offensive show for New England against the Bills. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson took 32 snaps, while Damien Harris participated in 13; with Harris’ hamstring injury likely being the reason for his decreased action. Veteran Brandon Bolden took six snaps on situational downs.
With the Patriots passing game being used sparingly in Week Thirteen, the Pats wide receivers all saw dramatic decreases in their snap counts. Jakobi Meyers led all wideouts, taking 27 snaps on offense. Both N’Keal Harry and Nelson Agholor saw the field for 49 percent of the Pats offensive snaps, while Kendrick Bourne took just 15. Harry’s found being equal to, or greater than his peers is a clear indication of the importance of receiver blocking in Week Thirteen.
Much like the receivers, the Patriots tight ends were largely invisible on Monday, especially as targets in the passing game. Hunter Henry took a season-low 15 offensive snaps. However, Jonnu Smith did see action on 39 snaps. Mostly deployed as blockers fix much of the evening, Smith had the distinction of hauling one of only two completed passes by quarterback Mac Jones, which resulted in a 12-yard gain.
On defense, the Pats snap count was 58 versus the Bills on Monday night:
In the absence of safety Kyle Dugger (who remains on COVID/Reserve), the Patriots entered Week Thirteen with a clear intent to protect the intermediate area of the field. This was especially true at the safety position, where team captain Devin McCourty took every defensive snap. Adrian Phillips nearly went the distance as well, but exited the field toward the end of the fourth quarter due to a knee injury. Phillips logged all but one defensive snap (57), while defensive back Myles Bryant also played the role of third safety, seeing action on 93 percent of the snaps on defense.
J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills spent equal amounts of time on the field, each participating in 56 defensive snaps. Jackson particularly stood out due to his stout coverage on Bills’ receiver Stefon Diggs, who was held to 51 yards receiving four catches. While the Pats mixed in a fair amount of one coverage, Jackson made the most of his one-on-one time with Diggs in man coverage.
After allowing 270 yards on the ground to the Tennessee Titans in Week Twelve, the Pats were intent on keeping Buffalo’s ground game in check. The interior of the defensive line was a big part of that success, led by defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. The 27-year-old took 45 defensive snaps on Monday, while providing stout defense in the middle, logging 10 tackles. Lawrence Guy saw action on 33 defensive snaps, while rookie Christian Barmore took 25.
Linebacker Ja’Wahun Bentley led all players at the position with 54 snaps taken on defense. However, Matt Judon (49 snaps) was once again the one who would make his presence felt, earning one of two sacks on Josh Allen. The night’s other sack went to linebacker Daniel Ekuale, who made the most of his practice squad elevation, taking eight defensive snaps. In his first action since being activated from injured reserve, linebacker Jamie Collins participated in 15 defensive snaps, as well as eight snaps on special teams.