In a close loss to the New England Patriots the snap counts reveal another change of plans by the Buffalo Bills to help Josh Allen beat the pass rush. Tinkering to find the perfect plan? An attempt to stay one step ahead of the league? Well, snap-count notes won’t have those answers but we can illustrate what changes we mean.
Offense (53 snaps)
The 100% club fell one short when Mitch Morse left with an injury in the fourth quarter. As usual, Jon Feliciano slid to center and Spencer Long came in at guard. Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, and Cody Ford remained in the game for every offensive snap along with Feliciano. Josh Allen had an up and down game, but also hit the 100% club, which is good news this time of year with the playoffs coming soon. The Ryan Bates snap came during the Dion Dawkins touchdown play as Dawkins effectively played tight end.
Speaking of tight ends, Lee Smith saw just two snaps, with Patrick DiMarco only getting six. These were drastically lower compared to last week when the Bills attempted to negate the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass rush with extra blockers. It’s possible the Bills weren’t satisfied with that performance or were looking to get some more formations under their belt. Dawson Knox and Tyler Kroft had the bulk of the tight ends, with nothing standing out.
For receivers John Brown was near the 100% club mark, which has been his norm. Cole Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie round out the usual pecking order. Andre Roberts and Robert Foster both saw an uptick this week in what appears to be an effort to add speed and receiving options for Allen rather than extra blocking.
The running backs are a short but powerful narrative. Devin Singletary was on the field for all but two plays, effectively abandoning normal ratios for this position group. Frank Gore did come in for those two plays, but did not log a carry.
Defense (74 snaps)
The nearly 20 extra snaps on defense helps illustrate how far out of whack the game got. New England controlled the ball for nearly 39 minutes, which is so ludicrous it’s gone plaid. The inability for the defense to get off the field was a major reason for the loss. Keeping this to a one-score game in light of that is frankly astonishing.
The 100% club was again disrupted by situational football. Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds, and Jordan Poyer all hit that mark. Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White both missed one snap (the fourth-quarter Patriots touchdown). Levi Wallace and Kevin Johnson continue to rotate. This week was near even between the two.
The Bills didn’t play in as much nickel as normal, with Taron Johnson seeing 56% of play time. Additionally, Star Lotulelei broke the 50% mark, which usually indicates a game plan focusing on the run. He was tied with Ed Oliver, but both were behind Jordan Phillips. Corey Liuget cleans up the list.
At defensive end, Trent Murphy saw the most snaps. He was followed by Shaq Lawson with Jerry Hughes a close third. Darryl Johnson Jr. is seeing reps, but they remain very limited.
Our weekly Lorenzo Alexander watch takes a weird turn with zero defensive end reps to spare. There were two defensive tackle snaps likely taken by Alexander. Based on the expected nickel count there were 32 linebacker snaps for Alexander and interestingly enough two snaps where he was in as linebacker for a bigger nickel look.
Special teams (25 snaps)
The top three return this week with Siran Neal, Julian Stanford and Senorise Perry all reaching 72% of playing time on special teams. Lorenzo Alexander and Robert Foster come in for the second tier group at 64%. With this phase of the game seeing a lot of changeover this year, the stability compared to last week is nearly shocking.