Following three consecutive dominant wins, the Buffalo Bills came back down to Earth in Week 5 in London when they fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 25-20. The majority of the media outlets rolled with Buffalo primarily due to its sheer domination of opponents over the last three weeks, but Jacksonville came much more rested and prepared. The jet lag and decimating injuries contributed to the loss, but it was very much in reach — the offense just couldn't get it done (again).
Coming into the game, Buffalo declared defensive ends Greg Rousseau and Shaq Lawson, and cornerback Christian Benford as out. On top of losing cornerback Tre’Davious White to an Achilles injury in Week 4, the Bills were already depending on their depth to step up and get the job done.
As always, let’s dive into the snap counts for the Bills-Jaguars international matchup and pinpoint which decisions ultimately hurt the Bills in the end, causing them to fall to a 3-2 record and now second place in the AFC East.
Bills offensive snap counts (60 snaps)
I’ll admit I had a feeling this would be one of those games where the Bills just couldn't get anything going on offense, and well, I was right, unfortunately. It’s nice and all to see the offensive line maintain their health through five games but when the defense holds a team to basically 11 points for the majority of the game, you’d expect the offense to be able to out-score that, right?
Quarterback Josh Allen (100%) still continued his strong play, finishing with nearly 375 total yards and three total touchdowns, but the play calling was suspect at times and led to multiple three-and-outs, resulting in a lack of rhythm all game long. Wide receivers Gabe Davis (90%) and Stefon Diggs (87%) both finished with 100 and 121 yards, respectively and were the two recipients of both of Allen’s passing touchdowns. Wide receiver Deonte Harty (25%) had a big 43-yard reception but, overall, the rest of the receiving core has been underwhelming, to say the least.
In classic fashion, offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey completely abandoned the running game. Allen led the team with a whopping 14 rushing yards while running back James Cook (62%) posted the worst game of his career thus far, finishing with just five carries for -4 yards (-0.8 yards per carry). Usually, the other backs, Damien Harris (18%) and Latavius Murray (18%) are able to switch up the running flow, but Dorsey completely abandoned it at one point and just never went back. How many times are the Bills going to do this until they realize they cannot be one-dimensional on offense no matter how good Allen can be?
Tight ends Dawson Knox (70%) and Dalton Kincaid (53%) were expected to take advantage of the openings in the middle of the field but they totaled just five catches for 36 yards.
I don’t know about you but the misuse of Kincaid is starting to become frustrating at this point. You see how the Detroit Lions are utilizing Sam LaPorta in their offensive game plan... why can't the Bills do the same? Can they let Kincaid run more than just five-yard in-routes or slant routes?
Bills defensive snap counts (88 snaps)
Buffalo’s defense has been nothing short of dominant this season, ranking first in multiple metrics coming into Week 5, but it became weaker the second Tre’Davious White (Achilles) went down in Week 4. It was a crushing blow but the Bills had the depth to figure it out. We can never have nice things in Buffalo as linebacker Matt Milano (12%), who was having a truly dominant season, played a total of 11 snaps before leaving the game on a cart with a leg injury. Milano fractured his leg and suffered a knee injury, and will be sidelined for the rest of the season.
#Bills star LB Matt Milano suffered a fractured leg and is feared to have suffered a season-ending knee injury in today’s loss, sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo. They are checking on the ACL. MRI coming, but missing the rest of the season is likely. One of the NFL’s best LBs. pic.twitter.com/dZsJM5fSMI— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 8, 2023
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (5%) also left the game after very limited action with a pectoral injury and according to head coach Sean McDermott, it’s “not looking good,” so in a matter of 11 defensive snaps, the Bills lost their best defensive player and most underrated player.
The injuries to both Jones and Milano opened up opportunities for defensive tackle Kendall Vickers (52%) and linebackers Tyrel Dodson (62%) and Dorian Williams (36%) to see some consistent defensive snaps. Both Williams and Dodson were noticeable on the field at times making plays, but this linebacker room is now led by Terrel Bernard (100%) and will depend on him to be consistent for the rest of the season. Jones’ loss will hurt much worse than most people think, but the Bills still generated constant pressure from defensive tackle Ed Oliver (81%) and defensive end A.J. Epenesa (67%), who both finished with a combined four tackles for losses, four QB hits, three sacks and three pass deflections. Buffalo is going to need more of that if it’s going to find defensive success amid all the injuries.
The secondary was underwhelming and let Jacksonville’s top pass-catchers consistently get open, especially on third-down conversions. Benford being sidelined definitely hurt the defense because cornerback Kaiir Elam (91%) was active for the first time this season, and I think we could all tell why he’d been inactive in the first place. He was consistently cooked by Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who finished with seven receptions for 122 yards. At one point, quarterback Trevor Lawrence was specifically targeting Elam and Buffalo even pulled him for practice squad cornerback Ja’Marcus Ingram (9%) at the end of the game. Once Benford is healthy, it’ll be him and Dane Jackson (100%) as CB1 and CB2. But man, this cornerback situation is looking quite rough at the moment.
Luckily, some good news came their way at least — and that was the return of defensive end Von Miller (23%), who reached his maximum snap count of 20 quickly on Sunday against the Jaguars. Considering the situation on defense, Miller’s snap count will likely start to increase much faster than anticipated. Safety Jordan Poyer (100%) also returned to the lineup after missing Week 4 versus the Miami Dolphins.
Bills special teams snap counts (25 snaps)
- 22 snaps (88%): CB Cam Lewis, CB Siran Neal, LB Tyler Matakevich
- 20 snaps (80%): TE Quintin Morris, FB Reggie Gilliam
- 19 snaps (76%): SS Taylor Rapp, DE Kingsley Jonathan
- 16 snaps (64%): LB Tyrel Dodson
- 14 snaps (56%): LB Dorian Williams
- 12 snaps (48%): CB Ja’Marcus Ingram
- 8 snaps (32%): WR Trent Sherfield, P Sam Martin, LS Reid Ferguson
- 6 snaps (24%): K Tyler Bass
- 5 snaps (20%): WR Khalil Shakir, WR Deonte Harty, SS Jordan Poyer, RB Damien Harris
- 4 snaps (16%): LB Terrel Bernard, DT Tim Settle
- 3 snaps (12%): FS Micah Hyde, DT Kendall Vickers
- 2 snaps (8%): G Connor McGovern, G O’Cyrus Torrence, T Spencer Brown, G David Edwards, C Ryan Bates, CB Dane Jackson, CB Kaiir Elam, CB Taron Johnson, DE AJ Epenesa, DE Leonard Floyd
- 1 snap (4%): LB Matt Milano, DT Ed Oliver, T Ryan Van Demark, T Dion Dawkins, WR Gabe Davis
There’s not much to say here, of course. I’d expect this list to look a bit different moving forward only because of the injuries and special teams players having to assume full-time defensive roles moving forward. Depending on how serious they are, there could be some new practice squad faces scattered throughout the special teams snaps next week, as well.
Buffalo’s special teams unit has been very good since allowing the game-winning punt return touchdown in overtime against the New York Jets in Week 1. The Bills currently field the 12th-best unit in terms of special teams DVOA (1.6%) through five weeks. Punter Sam Martin’s (32%) punts have been solid and the return team has kept two great return specialists in check in back-to-back weeks now (Braxton Berrios and Jamal Agnew).