After back-to-back disappointing losses to the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings—and an insane lake-effect blizzard in Western New York, resulting in the game being moved to Detroit, MI—the Buffalo Bills beat the Cleveland Browns, 31-23. There were some noticeable hiccups along the way on both offense and defense, but the Bills made adjustments and finally scored a second-half touchdown for the first time since Week 6.
Injuries have kept the Bills at a disadvantage almost every single game since Week 1, primarily on defense. Defensive end Greg Rousseau (ankle), linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (groin), and rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam (ankle) were all ruled out ahead of the game, but safety Jordan Poyer (elbow) and linebacker Matt Milano (oblique) returned. On the Browns’ side of things, a few defensive players missed Week 11, including starting cornerback Greg Newsome II, who was out with a concussion.
The impact of the Buffalo snowstorm clearly weighed on Bills fans’ minds entering this game, because the players could have been fatigued from the hectic travel plans. However, one positive came out of this: Allen was able to throw inside a dome. A game played in the snow may have favored Cleveland far more than Buffalo, and this was the perfect opportunity for Allen to get back on track.
Let’s take a look at the Week 11 snap counts and why the Bills looked a bit more like their usual selves.
Bills offense snap counts (65 snaps)
The continuity of the offensive line will be instrumental to the Bills’ success as they head into this late stretch of games. The line struggled at times, allowing two sacks, four QB hits and five tackles for a loss, but the run game improvement is the main takeaway. Center Mitch Morse (100%) came to mind first, making huge run blocks to open the field up a bit more.
Running backs Devin Singletary (72%) and James Cook (25%) totaled 18 and 11 carries, respectively, for 86 yards. The run game looked strong from the start, much like Week 10 against the Vikings, but the Bills stuck to it and didn’t abandon the run in the second half. Cook’s production on 47% less snaps is very impressive, and worth mentioning. Was Buffalo purposefully stashing Cook this whole time? Newly-acquired running back Nyheim Hines logged his highest snap count with Buffalo this season (15%), and it was promising to see the different ways he was utilized in the limited opportunities.
Entering the game, Buffalo had just five wide receivers on the active roster. Gabe Davis (88%) and Stefon Diggs (66%) continue to lead the way in terms of targets and snaps, but tight end Dawson Knox finally saw some viable usage and turned it into a fantastic day. Knox caught a career-high seven receptions for 70 yards, including a few chain-moving grabs in critical moments. Rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir continues to log less than 30% every game, totaling just seven receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown this season.
Bills defense snap counts (75 snaps)
Linebacker Tyrel Dodson logged 100% of snaps and filled in for Edmunds, but the defense is noticeably weaker without Edmunds. Both Poyer (5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PD) and Milano (12 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 FR) returned and proved to be that extra push the defense needed to regain its form a bit, with both players making plays all over the field.
The secondary still struggles to properly cover opposing receivers, especially knocking the ball down in key moments—but things will improve once the team becomes healthier. Veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes (33%) was called up to the active roster for the second straight week and traded possessions with rookie cornerback Christian Benford. He made some key plays, and surely brought a sense of security to the rest of the secondary simply because of his veteran presence.
The stat sheet doesn’t jump out, nor properly depict how truly impressive and consistent the defensive pressure was against Cleveland. Buffalo’s defense managed to sack quarterback Jacoby Brissett just once, but also totaled eight tackles for a loss and five QB hits. Defensive tackles Ed Oliver (75%), Daquan Jones (55%), and Jordan Phillips (40%) clogged the running lanes all game long, holding star running back Nick Chubb to just 14 carries for 19 yards (1.4 YPC). Defensive end A.J Epenesa logged just six snaps due to leaving the game early with an ankle injury.
Bills special teams snap counts (30 snaps)
- 24 snaps, 80% — TE Quintin Morris
- 23 snaps, 77% — RB Taiwan Jones, LB Tyler Matakevich
- 21 snaps, 70% — CB Siran Neal
- 19 snaps, 63% — S Jaquan Johnson, LB Terrell Bernard
- 17 snaps, 57% — LB Baylon Spector, FB Reggie Gilliam, RB Nyheim Hines
Nothing much different here for special teams, other than the fact that Hines now returns both punts and kickoffs (57%). His electricity and speed put the Bills in great field position on multiple occasions, so it’s safe to say he has those positions locked up moving forward. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him take one to the house in the coming weeks.
Kicker Tyler Bass made six field goals, tying his career-high previously set in 2020 against the Jets. Even with the Bills’ offensive woes, as long as they are within the opposing 30-yard line, there’s a very high chance Big Baller Bass drills it.
A huge shoutout to defensive tackle Jones (13%) for blocking the Browns’ field goal attempt in the second quarter.