The New England Patriots are back in the win column thanks to a 34-13 road win over the Cincinnati Bengals — one that saw the team use a different personnel approach when compared to last week’s contest against the Kansas City Chiefs. Be it because of health statuses or game plan, the team received major contributions from players that played only a marginal role during the loss to the Chiefs. With that out of the way, let’s dig a little deeper into the snap count numbers to get an impression of how the Patriots used their players.
Total snaps: 65
OG Joe Thuney (65; 100%), OC Ted Karras (65; 100%), OT Marcus Cannon (65; 100%), QB Tom Brady (65; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (65; 100%), OG Shaq Mason (56; 86%), WR Mohamed Sanu (56; 86%), TE Matt LaCosse (49; 75%), WR Julian Edelman (40; 62%), WR N’Keal Harry (38; 58%), TE Benjamin Watson (34; 52%), RB Sony Michel (27; 42%), RB James White (25; 38%), RB Rex Burkhead (20; 31%), LB Elandon Roberts (10; 15%), OG James Ferentz (9; 14%), WR Phillip Dorsett II (9; 14%), OT Marshall Newhouse (7; 11%), WR Jakobi Meyers (7; 11%), WR Matthew Slater (2; 3%), RB Brandon Bolden (1; 2%)
Rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry made his presence felt on Sunday by registering four touches for a combined 37 yards and a touchdown, and his playing time share also shows that he appears to be headed in the right direction: the first-round draft pick was on the field for 38 of New England’s 65 offensive snaps and served as the number three wide receiver behind Mohamed Sanu and Julian Edelman — and clearly ahead of Phillip Dorsett.
Speaking of Sanu and Edelman, the two veterans were used differently than the last few weeks: while the former saw his most snaps since hurting his ankle in Week 11 and was on the field for 56 snaps, the latter was used in limited fashion after being limited in practice all week due to knee and shoulder injuries. Getting Edelman healthy for the playoffs is imperative, and managing his workload during the week might be a way of accomplishing that.
Elsewhere, the Patriots did not do anything surprising. Matt LaCosse, who caught three passes for 22 yards, remains the top option at tight end. The running back rotation saw the return of Sony Michel into the lead-back role after he played only nine snaps last week. And James Ferentz was the next man up after starting right guard Shaq Mason left the game because of an ankle injury — a situation that certainly will be kept a close eye on.
Total snaps: 66
CB Stephon Gilmore (66; 100%), FS Devin McCourty (55; 83%), LB Dont’a Hightower (53; 80%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (52; 79%), CB J.C. Jackson (52; 79%), LB Kyle Van Noy (49; 74%), SS Patrick Chung (46; 70%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (46; 70%), DT Lawrence Guy (45; 68%), DT Danny Shelton (42; 64%), DT Adam Butler (30; 45%), CB Jonathan Jones (30; 45%), LB . Ja’Whaun Bentley (27; 41%), FS Duron Harmon (27; 41%), LB John Simon (25; 38%), LB Elandon Roberts (24; 36%), SS Terrence Brooks (20; 30%), LB Chase Winovich (16; 24%), LB Shilique Calhoun (15; 23%), CB Joejuan Williams (5; 8%)
Entering the game, the Patriots knew that they had to stop the Bengals’ ground game in order to significantly slow down their offense. While the team struggled to do that on a consistent basis, especially in the first half, its personnel usage reflects this approach: big-bodied defensive linemen Deatrich Wise Jr. and Adam Butler saw considerable action, with Wise seeing by far his highest playing time share of the season.
At linebacker, the Patriots gave plenty of snaps to run-stuffing linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Elandon Roberts. The former was one of the standouts of the game, while the latter once again served as a three-way player: not only did Roberts play 24 snaps on defense, he also added a season-high 10 as a lead-blocker on offense, and was on the field for 10 of New England’s 28 snaps in the kicking game as well.
In the secondary, meanwhile, the Patriots stuck with a familiar group: Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson — the latter again filling in for an injured Jason McCourty and looking very good while doing so — served as the starting cornerbacks on the perimeter, with Jonathan Jones seeing most of his playing time in the slot before a groin injury knocked him out of the game. The safety rotation, meanwhile, was led by Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung with Duron Harmon and Terrence Brooks as the next men up.
Total snaps: 28
RB Brandon Bolden (22; 79%), SS Nate Ebner (22; 79%), CB Justin Bethel (21; 75%), RB Rex Burkhead (18; 64%), WR Matthew Slater (18; 64%), LB Chase Winovich (17; 61%), P Jake Bailey (18; 64%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (11; 39%), LB John Simon (11; 39%), LB Shilique Calhoun (11; 39%), LS Joe Cardona (11; 39%), LB Elandon Roberts (10; 36%), FS Devin McCourty (10; 36%), DT Lawrence Guy (10; 36%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (9; 32%), SS Terrence Brooks (9; 32%), CB Joejuan Williams (8; 29%), OG Joe Thuney (6; 21%), OC Ted Karras (6; 21%), OT Marcus Cannon (6; 21%), OG Shaq Mason (6; 21%), OG James Ferentz (6; 21%), OT Marshall Newhouse (6; 21%), K Nick Folk (6; 21%), LB Dont’a Hightower (5; 18%), RB James White (4; 14%), DT Adam Butler (4; 14%), CB Jonathan Jones (4; 14%), WR Mohamed Sanu (3; 11%), CB J.C. Jackson (3; 11%), DT Danny Shelton (3; 11%), WR Julian Edelman (1; 4%), WR N’Keal Harry (1; 4%), SS Patrick Chung (1; 4%), FS Duron Harmon (1; 4%)
New England used 35 members of its 46-man game day roster on special teams, with five of them playing exclusively in the kicking game: the three specialists — punter/kickoff specialist Jake Bailey, long snapper Joe Cardona, kicker Nick Folk — as well as Nate Ebner and Justin Bethel. Bethel, of course, had one of the biggest plays of the game when he recovered a fumble on a punt forced by fellow gunner Matthew Slater.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham
Despite the Patriots holding a commanding lead after three quarters of play, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham had to stay on the bench throughout the contest once more. The fourth-round rookie has been on the 46-man game day roster for all 14 of the team’s games so far this season, but has seen the field just three times for a combined 15 offensive snaps.
CB Jason McCourty, QB Cody Kessler, RB Damien Harris, TE Ryan Izzo, OG Jermaine Eluemunor, OT Korey Cunningham, DT Byron Cowart
Two of the players listed as inactive by the Patriots were declared out because of injury. Cornerback Jason McCourty, who played only four snaps last week, missed his third total game due to a groin issue. Rookie defensive tackle Byron Cowart, meanwhile, continues to be limited due to a concussion — he too missed his third game. The other inactives, on the other hand, are little more than depth players at this point in time.