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Bills-Bears snap counts: Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam continue CB2 split

James Cook has officially carved out his role

Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills have won six straight games after their 35-13 victory over the Chicago Bears. The Bills are 12-3, in possession of the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture, and AFC East champions for the third straight season. Buffalo went an impressive 4-0 during the month of December while watching its division rivals win just once.

After three straight weeks of divisional matchups, the Bills had a much easier week facing the injury-riddled and discombobulated Bears. The first half was ugly, and quarterback Josh Allen’s interception spell seemed to return, which is concerning. But a win is a win — and the Bills absolutely dominated in the second half, outscoring the Bears 29-3 after halftime.

Both center Mitch Morse (concussion) and defensive end Boogie Basham (calf) were ruled out ahead of the game, with both defensive tackles Jordan Phillips (shoulder) and Ed Oliver (calf) suiting up despite the questionable tags. The Bears had key injuries to members of the offensive line, wide receiving corps, and secondary.

Let’s take a look at the snap counts to see who and what made a difference in containing Bears quarterback Justin Fields, and in taking advantage of Chicago’s injury-riddled secondary.

Bills offense snap counts (64 snaps)

The Bills cannot catch a break with this offensive line. Morse was already ruled out, and guard Ryan Bates (91%) went down early with an injury, but was able to return in the second half. Shout out to guard Greg Van Roten for playing 100% of snaps, with some coming from the center position and the majority coming from right guard. The Bears had a bottom-ten pass rush and still brought consistent pressure to Allen, so the offensive line is still a very big question mark for this team’s success.

Allen was not great throwing the ball on a very windy day, and his receivers’ production suffered as a result. Gabe Davis (89%), Stefon Diggs (67%) and tight end Dawson Knox (75%) combined for nine catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns, so it’s promising to see the three main playmakers leading the way. It is worth noting that this is the first time all season that rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir out-snapped Isaiah McKenzie, 25 to 23, respectively.

The main feature of the offense was the running game. Both Devin Singletary (58%) and James Cook (41%) carried this Bills offense to victory, totaling over 200 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Singletary passed 100 yards for the first time all season, while Cook reached 99 yards. Allen himself reached 41 yards, bringing the team total to 254 yards at 8.2 yards per carry.

Bills defense snap counts (63 snaps)

Finally! Buffalo’s defensive starters didn’t have to play every single snap, because the Bills had the game in the bag late in the fourth quarter. It’s no surprise to see the normal guys lead the way in playing time, but the competition between cornerbacks Kaiir Elam (48%) and Dane Jackson (59%) is still in the works. It’s clear that Tre’Davious White (92%) is still finding his footing after his ACL injury, so the faster the Bills figure out CB2, the better — especially with the Cincinnati Bengals receiving corps up next.

The entire defense did a phenomenal job of shutting down Fields’ running ability, as linebacker Matt Milano (92%) seemed to be locked in as a spy all game long. The pass rush totaled two sacks and four hits, but the real takeaway is the adjustments to the run defense. Buffalo totaled 11 tackles for loss, and held Chicago to just 209 total yards.

Practice-squad defensive end Kingsley Jonathan (29%) shined in his limited opportunities, but once Basham returns, he likely won’t see the field again (sadly). It’s worth noting that Phillips (24%) is clearly not even close to 100% health, and the Bills should tread lightly with him moving forward. He brings life to the defense when healthy, and the pass rush will need his presence from the interior.

Bills special teams snap counts (25 snaps)

  • 22 snaps, 88%: TE Quintin Morris, FB Reggie Gilliam
  • 20 snaps, 80%: LBs Tyrel Dodson and Tyler Matakevich, CB Siran Neal, RB Taiwan Jones
  • 17 snaps, 68%: FS Jaquan Johnson, LB Terrell Bernard
  • Others: CB Cam Lewis (14 snaps, 56%), LB AJ Klein (11 snaps, 44%), K Tyler Bass (11 snaps, 44%), RB Nyheim Hines (8 snaps, 32%), CB Kaiir Elam (6 snaps, 24%)

The normal special teams weapons led the way this week. Tight end Quintin Morris (88%) and fullback Reggie Gilliam (88%) flash on offense sometimes, but their roles are primarily special-teams based — and they seem to be the leaders every week.

Kicker Tyler Bass (44%) struggled in Soldier Field’s windy conditions, missing a PAT and a field goal. It’s also worth mentioning now that running back Nyheim Hines has made some very questionable decisions on returns the past few games. When he first arrived, he was a breath of fresh air, but he seems lost on punt returns lately — which has led to terrible field position for the Bills multiple times.