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Patriots at Bills Snap Count Report: New England has a balanced backfield

Jonathan Jones is also a rising star.

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports


The Patriots' 23 points on offense were their fewest in a game since Week 8, but ultimately two touchdown drives in the third quarter were more than enough to beat the Bills in Week 13.

The Pats got a balanced attack from their stable of running backs on Sunday with James White (28 snaps, 9 touches), Dion Lewis (26 snaps, 15 touches), and Rex Burkhead (22 snaps, 15 touches) all having chances to be the featured back in this one.

As for the guys blocking for the running backs up front, it was another impressive fill-in performance for a Patriots right tackle. Fourth-year tackle Cameron Fleming played nearly every snap at right tackle filling in for starter Marcus Cannon and second-stringer LaAdrian Waddle.

The Patriots appeared to give Fleming a good amount of help with a tight end on his side, but at the end of the day Fleming didn't allow a single pressure in pass protection and was a plus-player in the run game as well.

Tom Brady was hit another five times by the Bills' pass rush in Week 13, but the Patriots have been down a few key starters along the offensive line in recent weeks, and have been able to keep things together on the whole.

Lastly, in true Bill Belichick fashion, the hoodie appeared to troll reporters who questioned his reluctance to take Tom Brady out of last week's blowout win against the Dolphins.

Brian Hoyer, Brady's backup, played two snaps on Sunday, both kneel-downs.


Let's start with the return of cornerback Eric Rowe, who has been inactive since Week 4 due to a groin injury.

Rowe played 15 snaps in his return to action, including a stretch filling in for top cornerback Stephon Gilmore when Gilmore appeared to tighten up a bit during the third quarter.

Also, one long-term trend and another game-plan specific trend stuck out in this one.

First, for the third-straight week cornerback Jonathan Jones has seen significantly more playing time than third safety Duron Harmon. After playing nearly 90% of the snaps in Weeks 11 and 12, Jones was on the field for 85.1% of the Patriots' defensive snaps in Week 13.

Harmon, on the other hand, played just 44.8% of the snaps. Furthermore, Harmon played on 81.5% of the Patriots' snaps on defense in the first 9 games of the season, and that number has dropped to 47.1% due to Jones' emergence.

The big nickel and dime packages with three safeties on the field have been a staple of the Patriots' defense in recent seasons, but Jonathan Jones' stellar play has forced the Patriots to play the second-year cornerback.

Second, the Patriots went heavy along the defensive line gearing up for the Bills' potent rushing attack.

The strategy didn't exactly work, as the Bills ran for 183 yards on seven yards/attempt, but it was a busy day for DE Deatrich Wise and DT's Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, and Alan Branch.

With Trey Flowers nursing a rib injury, Wise nearly tied a season-high with 58 snaps on defense, and Brown (44 snaps), Guy (37 snaps), and Branch (27 snaps) appeared to be a focal point in the plan to stop LeSean McCoy and company.

The Patriots defense allowed a season-low three points and 85 passing yards to the Bills and extended their streak of allowing fewer than 17 points to eight-straight games.