I know the win didn’t happen the way every Buffalo Bills hoped. It does push the New England Patriots further into the AFC East doldrums, though, and all but eliminates them from contending for the division crown. Remember the years when we were happy to play spoiler to a division team in Week 16 or 17? I sure do. Today I plan to enjoy that same feeling eight weeks early.
Offense (58 snaps)
Two major shakeups to the 100% club. The good news is the return of Jon Feliciano who not only played but was in on every snap. It’s a sample of one game but the run game sure felt different yesterday. The bad news is he spent a good deal of time at center after Mitch Morse exited the game with a concussion. Morse’s history with that injury is not good and I’ll join Bills fans everywhere wishing him the best. Ryan Bates had also subbed in briefly at center. Ike Boettger came in at guard when Feliciano moved inside to center.
The rest of the 100% club remained intact. That includes Josh Allen, Dion Dawkins, Darryl Williams, and Brian Winters.
Stefon Diggs actually decreased his play time. Usually a bit closer to 100% (and sometimes making it to 100) he briefly left the field holding his lower back. John Brown came back into the lineup and cemented his second-place spot for snap counts. Cole Beasley hit his usual third place but was followed very closely by Gabriel Davis. Isaiah McKenzie saw the field for only six snaps but, in a game with fewer plays to go around, that still put him out there 10% of the time.
The Bills have been using a committee of two approach with running backs, with nearly even snaps when both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have been healthy. That continued this week but Moss edged out Singletary and had a statement game with two touchdowns. Based on counts, there was one snap where both were on the field at the same time.
The tight end group continues to be very game-plan specific. While he was third in snap counts, Lee Smith was active for the game, which hasn’t always been the case. Tyler Kroft led the way and Reggie Gilliam slightly outpaced Smith. In addition to Smith being active, tight ends were on the field around 90% of the time. This has dipped below 70% in games this season.
Defense (65 snaps)
The 100% club went about as expected this week. The returning Levi Wallace joined fellow outside corner Tre’Davious White in the group. They were joined by Jordan Poyer and Dean Marlowe who was subbing in for Micah Hyde. Tremaine Edmunds nearly made it, but went to the sideline with a leg cramp for two snaps in the fourth quarter.
Matt Milano remains on a pitch count and saw less time than last week. A.J. Klein occupied the space that Milano typically would have for most of the game. Andre Smith and Tyler Matakevitch also saw time at linebacker. Adding up the counts, there was a third linebacker on the field for roughly a quarter of the game. That means...
The Bills should be expected to have played nickel roughly 75% of the time, which is exactly where Taron Johnson comes in at. With Marlowe in for Hyde that took him out of the big nickel look the Bills have loved this season. Playing a “mere” 75% of snaps in nickel is a pretty big shift for the Buffalo Nickel defense.
If you had Harrison Phillips predicted to take the most snaps at defensive tackle then you’re probably head coach Sean McDermott or defensive coordinator/assistant head Leslie Frazier. Thank you for reading this. After being a healthy scratch already this year, and seeing relatively low counts, this was a bit of a shock. It could be a sign of him returning to full health. He was followed by Ed Oliver, then Justin Zimmer, then Quinton Jefferson. Oliver and Jefferson have been top of the pile most of the year. Brandin Bryant also got in on the fun. If you feel like he’s a new name to this list it’s because he is.
With A.J. Epenesa a healthy scratch it left Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Trent Murphy, and Darryl Johnson in at defensive end. Hughes and Addison led the way, followed closely by Murphy. Johnson was a distant fourth.
Special Teams (24 snaps)
The Bills had less field goal attempts and more punting than last week, so there’s some changes here as well. But not too many. Tyler Matakevitch, Darryl Johnson and Jaquan Johnson saw the most time at 79%. Matakevitch made the heads-up grab when the New England Patriots tried an onside kick. Reggie Gilliam, Andre Smith, and Siran Neal were next up at 67% of play time. None of these names are surprising in the least.