After a “get-right” win in Week 11 over the Cleveland Browns, the expectations for the Buffalo Bills to build off of it and light up the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day were high. If there’s one thing about being a Bills fan, it’s that they never make it easy—but they still walked out of Detroit with a 28-25 victory to improve to 8-3.
Injuries, injuries, injuries. They’ve hindered the true potential of this Bills squad all season long, and this week was no different. Center Mitch Morse (ankle), linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (groin) and edge rusher Greg Rousseau (ankle) were all ruled out ahead of the game, but cornerbacks Kaiir Elam and most notably Tre’Davious White, returned to the lineup. As for the Lions sideline, they were without two starting offensive linemen, as well as their starting cornerback.
Let’s dive into this week’s snap counts!
Bills offense snap counts (77 snaps)
The major concern for the offense was the absence of Morse, because in past games where he has been sidelined, the Bills have had some snap issues. Ryan Bates (100%) filled in nicely for Morse at center, with guard Greg Van Roten (100%) taking over Bates’ right guard duties. Left tackle Dion Dawkins (42%) left the game early with an ankle injury, and was seen in a walking boot following the game. This unit mightily struggled in pass-blocking situations for the majority of the second half, forcing more blocking snaps to wide receiver Khalil Shakir (44%) and tight end Dawson Knox (78%).
Running back Devin Singletary (78%) dominated the backfield with 14 carries and 72 yards, compared to James Cook’s two carries for four yards. Whenever it seems like Cook (18%) is going to log more snaps, Singletary impresses. Wide receiver Gabe Davis (90%) led the way for receivers, with Stefon Diggs (78%) and Isaiah McKenzie (73%) not too far behind. McKenzie made a big impact, catching 6-of-10 targets for 96 yards and one touchdown, while Diggs caught 8-of-15 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown, including a 36-yard catch to bring the Bills into field goal range with under 20 seconds remaining.
Quarterback Josh Allen (100%) looked a bit like his normal self, totaling over 325 yards and three touchdowns, but it’s obvious that his elbow injury is still lingering. Some of his throws are just off, and he still leads the league in total turnovers with 14 (12 interceptions and two lost fumbles).
Bills defense snap counts (71 snaps)
Let’s get right to it, Bills Mafia. Edge rusher Von Miller (28%) was carted off the field with a knee injury after he was tangled up late in the second quarter. The best-case scenario could be a knee sprain, which will still sideline him, but that is a much better outcome than a potential second straight Thanksgiving game where a Bills player tears their ACL.
Defensive tackle Ed Oliver (65%) was a wrecking ball in the second half, totaling six tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two tackles for a loss and a safety. Other than defensive tackles DaQuan Jones (58%) and Jordan Phillips (46%), the defensive line had a day to forget in terms of production and value. Defensive end Boogie Basham logged the most snaps (75%) out of all defensive linemen, yet produced practically nothing and committed two costly penalties himself.
Cornerback Dane Jackson (100%) got the start alongside White in the latter’s first game back, but did not have a good day, as Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown had a field day (9-122-1) when covered by him. White (23%) was on a clear snap count, with cornerbacks Christian Benford and Elam swapping the CB2 role throughout the game. The cornerback play has really been the underlying defensive issue this season, and the rotations are starting to become head-scratching at this point.
Linebacker A.J. Klein (100%) got the start over Tyrel Dodson (14%), which was certainly the right call. Matt Milano continues to build off each strong performance, making plays all over the field every game. This defense is severely missing Edmunds clogging the running holes and covering the middle of the field on quick passing plays, but there is a very good chance he returns after a normal week of rest.
Bills special teams snap counts (26 snaps)
- 22 snaps, 85%: TE Quintin Morris
- 21 snaps, 81%: FB Reggie Gilliam, LBs Tyrel Dodson and Tyler Matakevich, CB Siran Neal
- 20 snaps, 77%: RB Taiwan Jones
- 17 snaps, 65%: LB Terrell Bernard, S Jaquan Johnson, S Dean Marlowe
- Others: RB Nyheim Hines (8 snaps, 31%), K Tyler Bass (10 snaps, 38%), P Sam Martin (9 snaps, 35%)
There isn’t much different here, other than Dodson returning to his normal role on special teams in full capacity. It is worth noting at this point that tight end Quintin Morris is the go-to special teams guy, logging the most special teams snaps for the fifth straight week.
Kicker Tyler Bass (38%) continues to be automatic and one of the league’s best kickers, but ended his streak of 104 consecutive extra points when he missed late in the fourth quarter to allow the Lions to tie the game. One could argue that Bass’ missed PAT made Detroit play much more passive on its final drive, however, in playing for a field goal instead of a go-ahead touchdown.