Picture this: It’s the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. You’re on an eight-game winning streak, are 5.5-point favorites at home, have a ton of emotional fire to play with, and of course, have Josh Allen. But, you get bounced in front of your home fans by three scores, and the season’s over just like that.
Well, that’s what happened. The Buffalo Bills will watch the remainder of the playoffs from home again after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-10. It’s nothing but devastation every season with this team, but as we Bills fans love to say: there’s always next year!
Coming into the game, there weren’t many injury concerns, but defensive tackle DaQuan Jones practiced in a limited capacity all week and was ultimately unable to suit up, which automatically hurt the Bills’ run defense. The Bengals were at a disadvantage with how many injuries they had on their offensive line, but Jones being inactive leveled the matchup on paper a bit.
Let’s take a look at the snap counts from the divisional round and see where things went wrong with the game-planning and overall execution on both sides of the ball.
Offense snap counts (63 snaps)
The offensive line put up its worst performance in the biggest game of the season. No one necessarily stood out, but tackles Dion Dawkins and Spencer Brown, as well as guard Roger Saffold (100%) noticeably struggled. They were liabilities all game long, and Allen was running for his life from the first drive to the last. One can only hope that general manager Brandon Beane addresses this to the best of his ability this offseason.
Allen wasn’t great, by any means, but he is the only reason Buffalo even put points on the board. He threw for over 260 yards and, unsurprisingly, led the team in rushing. Both running backs Devin Singletary (62%) and James Cook (33%) were underwhelming, but then again, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey barely utilized them. This has been an issue for at least three seasons at this point, and Buffalo seriously needs to establish the run game.
Tight end Dawson Knox (78%) led all Bills pass-catchers with five receptions for 65 yards. Yeah, not ideal. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs (90%) hauled in just four of his 10 targets for 35 yards, and also left the Bills with plenty of media speculation this offseason with his heated moments on the sidelines, as well as his storming out of the locker room bit. Rookie Khalil Shakir (29%) impressed in limited snaps, too, and should absolutely be given more opportunities next season. At the end of the day, Allen had no time to do anything, and it’s miraculous he even threw for as many yards as he did.
Defense snap counts (75 snaps)
I wish there were better things to say about the other side of the ball, but that isn’t the case. Not only did Buffalo lose the battle in the trenches on offense, but arguably did worse on defense, given the situation. Cincinnati had three starting offensive linemen out yet the Bills’ pass rush totaled just one sack and three quarterback hits. The loss of Jones in the interior proved to be crucial, as neither defensive tackle Ed Oliver (75%) nor Jordan Phillips (25%) even made an impact.
The linebacker duo is what’s keeping me sane at the moment. Both Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano logged 100% of snaps, and were the only defensive players making consistent plays. Milano primarily stood out, totaling one sack, two tackles for loss, and a huge pass-breakup that saved the Bills four points. Edmunds is a free agent this offseason, and it would not be surprising to see him as the first priority signing from Beane and company.
Although the secondary dealt with so many injuries throughout the season, they were as healthy as they could possibly get, with the exceptions of safeties Micah Hyde and Damar Hamlin. Jordan Poyer (83%) ended up leaving the game early due to injury, but played his worst game of the season and looked lost on the majority of his assignments. I didn’t want to believe it, but it seems like cornerback Tre’Davious White (96%) will never be the same elite corner he once was. Let’s hope he comes back next season similar to the player we all know and love.
Special teams snap counts (22 snaps)
- 20 snaps, 91%: LBs Tyler Matakevich and Tyrel Dodson, CB Siran Neal, RB Taiwan Jones
- 17 snaps, 77%: TE Quintin Morris, FB Reggie Gilliam
- Others: 14 snaps, 64%: FS Jaquan Johnson — 12 snaps, 55%: LB A.J. Klein, CB Cam Lewis, DE Kingsley Jonathan — 8 snaps, 36%: RB Nyheim Hines
It was a snowy game, so we sadly didn’t get to see kick returner Nyheim Hines (36%) house any touchdowns. There isn’t much to say about the special teams in this one, other than the fact the Bills opted to punt down 10 points near Cincinnati’s 42-yard line — another signature conservative approach from head coach Sean McDermott. It’s the playoffs against a very good team that will put points on the board, and Buffalo still went conservative.
Lots to work on this offseason. One last “Go Bills!”