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Week 16 Patriots vs Bills snap count report: How New England tried to replace Josh Gordon

Notes on the Patriots’ snap count numbers from their win against the Bills.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots defeated the visiting Buffalo Bills 24-12 on Sunday in a game that a) helped the team in the AFC playoff race and b) saw all 46 men on the game day roster contribute. Let’s take a closer look at some of the snap count numbers from the Patriots’ tenth win of the season to get an impression of how they used their personnel.

New England’s running backs were employed evenly

The Patriots ran for 275 yards on 45 non-kneel down carries, and the running backs carried the bulk of the load. James White was the group’s leader when it comes to playing time as he was on the field for 29 of a possible 75 offensive snaps on Sunday (39%). Rex Burkhead played 25 snaps (33%), while Sony Michel saw 23 (31%) — and the rookie made the most out of his comparatively small workload: Michel carried the football 18 times for 116 yards and a touchdown.

Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman were the top two wide receivers

With Josh Gordon no longer available, the Patriots turned to Chris Hogan to replace him as the second option at wide receiver next to Julian Edelman. In fact, he was the number one in terms of playing time versus the Bills: Hogan was on the field for 62 of 75 snaps (83%) against his ex-team compared to Edelman’s 58 (77%). But while Edelman finished the game with a team-high six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, Hogan did was not even targeted once. The team’s other wide receivers were also relatively quiet: Phillip Dorsett (27; 36%) and Cordarrelle Patterson (17; 23%) both received carries but did little in the passing game.

Rob Gronkowski was on a snap count

Normally, Rob Gronkowski plays close to 100% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps. On Sunday, however, he was on the field for “just” 79% (59 of 75) and was mostly used as a blocker in the running game. New England pulled Gronkowski, who was limited during Thursday’s practice with what was listed as an ankle/back injury, on some early downs and inserted Dwayne Allen into the lineup in his place. As a result, Allen had one of his most active games of the season and finished with 37 snaps (49%)

Deatrich Wise Jr. and Adam Butler saw considerable action along the defensive line

New England changed its defensive line personnel a bit on Sunday. Danny Shelton returned from a three-game absence and played considerable snaps (18 of 61; 30%). However, he was still the fourth player at defensive tackle behind Adam Butler (30; 49%), Malcom Brown (22; 36%) and Lawrence Guy (21; 34%). On the edge, Adrian Clayborn was out and Deatrich Wise Jr. (33; 54%) and Ufomba Kamalu (13; 21%) benefitted from his deactivation.

The linebacker roles remain unchanged

With the Patriots playing a run-first team in the Bills, they decided to use all three of their linebackers extensively — without changing the basic roles, though: Dont’a Hightower (58 of 61; 95%) and Kyle Van Noy (58; 61%) were the clear one-two punch at the position with Elandon Roberts as the third option (23; 38%). Special teams ace Albert McClellan (3; 5%) also saw a handful of snaps.

J.C. Jackson was the Patriots’ top cornerback

J.C. Jackson played 100% of New England’s defensive snaps (61 of 61) against the Bills for the first time all season. This made him the lone Patriots cornerback to not leave the field on Sunday, as the undrafted rookie saw considerably more action than Stephon Gilmore (51; 84%), Jason McCourty (33; 54%), Jonathan Jones (24; 39%) and fellow rookie Keion Crossen (14; 23%). Jackson was excellent once again: he did not allow a completion on two targets and also registered an interception.

Seven players were on the field for 100% of the snaps

On offense, only the five starting offensive linemen did not leave the field versus the Bills: Trent Brown Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon — who had a dominant run-blocking performance — were on the field for all 75 snaps. Defensively, the aforementioned J.C. Jackson was one of two players to reach 100%: safety Devin McCourty also went 61-of-61 on the day.