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Bills vs. Falcons: Harrison Phillips, Tommy Doyle usage leads snap count notes

Horrible Harry and the Falcon War

Settle down Buffalo Bills fans. I’m pretty sure Josh Allen was getting all those nasty interceptions out of his system before the playoffs. Really, we should all be praising his preparation and dedication. Anyway, Buffalo took down the Atlanta Falcons pretty comfortably even though arguably it should have been easier.


Offense (76 snaps)

The 100 percent club was a little short after Ryan “Rick” Bates exited due to injury late in the game. Bates was replaced by Jon Feliciano. Dion Dawkins left for one play as well. Daryl Williams, Josh Allen, Mitch Morse, and Spencer Brown all made the cut though this week.

The big news on offense this week is Tommy Doyle, who came in for about a quarter of the game. The addition of Doyle to create a heavier line could be a large part of the success Buffalo had in the ground game. Doyle saw the field 11 percent of the game against the New England Patriots. This is a trend worth watching as the Bills are adapting the team again heading into the playoffs.

Likely related, Dawson Knox saw a small dip in time this week and Reggie Gilliam saw an increase in time. These data points also both suggest that the Bills were very deliberate in getting the ground game going.

Devin Singletary continues to be the feature back, in a role that most fans seem to welcome—what with his success and all. Zack Moss continues to be the change-of-pace back, though my personal opinion is that it’s not much of a change when it comes to pace.

The receivers also show signs of the shift to ground and pound. Gabriel Davis outpaces the field. This is opposed to last week where Isaiah McKenzie had the most time on the field. McKenzie’s time was reduced significantly, though this is also in part thanks to the return of Cole Beasley. Stefon Diggs had the second most time. Jake Kumerow and Marquez Stevenson saw the field sporadically.

Defense (53 snaps)

Dane Jackson, Levi Wallace, and Taron Johnson all missed the 100 percent club by one snap. I’d have to re-watch the game to be sure, but likely a goal line package or similar is the culprit. Micah Hyde, Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, and Jordan Poyer all did hit the mark as expected. And no, I’m not taunting Poyer by listing him last. Nothing good happens when you taunt Jordan Poyer.

With the three defensive backs likely coming off the field on the same play, that means the Bills were nearly universally nickel. A.J. Klein’s lone snap likely came on that play. Buffalo did not do a traditional 4-3 by any means—more on that in a second.

The big news on this side of the ball, and the reason for the cover image choice, is the heavy dose of Harrison Phillips. Horrible Harry led all defensive linemen in snaps and had a very productive day to boot. He was followed by Ed Oliver. Phillips’s usage is noteworthy with Star Lotulelei being active. Last year when this happened many thought it signaled the end for Lotulelei. It did not. It still could, but it could also be game-plan specific (or Lotulelei still recovering from illness). Eli Ankou brings up the rear but we should mention that Ankou’s name is becoming more popular. The defensive tackles were short four snaps, which brings us to defensive ends.

Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison return to the top of the heap, with Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, and Efe Obada trailing the two top dogs. With six surplus snaps, this group accounts for the four defensive tackle snaps and two defensive back snaps. That suggests that for one play the Bills ran six defensive linemen, three linebackers, and two defensive backs. That means for the one play Buffalo did not run in nickel, they were in a 6-3 defense that probably has a fancy name, of which I’m unaware.

Special Teams (19 snaps)

Another no-punt game. Another week of Tyler Matakevich earning the top spot. Most of the names on this list shouldn’t be a surprise at this point despite some fluctuations on how each game played out.