It took 16 weeks, but the New England Patriots have finally locked up the AFC East thanks to a 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. The team played a solid game in all three phases, with the offense in particular standing out: a unit that struggled over the last few weeks moved the football well against the second-ranked scoring defense in the NFL by controlling the tempo of the game with a consistent ground attack, some strong passing, and a good game plan.
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: 73
OG Shaq Mason (73; 100%), OG Joe Thuney (73; 100%), OC Ted Karras (73; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (73; 100%), QB Tom Brady (73; 100%), WR Mohamed Sanu (70; 96%), WR Julian Edelman (52; 71%), OT Marshall Newhouse (46; 63%), TE Matt LaCosse (46; 63%), WR N’Keal Harry (37; 51%), RB James White (33; 45%), RB Sony Michel (31; 42%), TE Benjamin Watson (31; 42%), OT Marcus Cannon (27; 37%), LB Elandon Roberts (21; 29%), RB Rex Burkhead (19; 26%), WR Jakobi Meyers (14; 19%), WR Phillip Dorsett II (5; 7%), RB Brandon Bolden (3; 4%), WR Matthew Slater (3; 4%)
The Patriots playing the aforementioned ball-control game is reflected in the snap numbers as well: while only the offensive line — with the exception of right tackle Marcus Cannon, who had to be replaced by Marshall Newhouse just 27 snaps in because of an ankle injury — and quarterback Tom Brady went wire-to-wire, the rest of the playing time share saw a heavy dose of run-game personnel.
The backs saw increased action while being lead by the three-headed attack of James White, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, with fullback-linebacker hybrid Elandon Roberts getting a season-high 21 snaps. At tight end, meanwhile, Matt LaCosse continues to be the top option especially as a blocker. Veteran Benjamin Watson, on the other hand, is more involved in the passing game and finished with three catches for 15 yards.
At wide receiver, meanwhile, Mohamed Sanu served as the top option in terms of playing time with Julian Edelman — who missed a pair of series in the second half while being evaluated for a potential head injury — as the number two. New England did also get considerable contributions from its rookie receivers, though, as N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers played 37 and 14 snaps respectively and combined to touch the football seven times for 64 yards.
Total snaps: 54
FS Devin McCourty (54; 100%), SS Patrick Chung (54; 100%), LB Kyle Van Noy (54; 100%), CB J.C. Jackson (52; 96%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (52; 96%), CB Stephon Gilmore (52; 96%), LB Dont’a Hightower (49; 91%), LB John Simon (34; 63%), DT Adam Butler (30; 56%), FS Duron Harmon (30; 56%), CB Joejuan Williams (29; 54%), DT Lawrence Guy (29; 54%), DT Danny Shelton (27; 50%), SS Terrence Brooks (16; 30%), LB Chase Winovich (11; 20%), LB Shilique Calhoun (6; 11%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (6; 11%), CB Jason McCourty (4; 7%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (3; 6%), LB Elandon Roberts (2; 4%)
New England’s defensive snap report remains mostly unchanged on a week-to-week basis: the starting secondary is playing close to 100%, with the top-three at linebacker — Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins — also rarely leaving the field. The only real movement therefore comes along the defensive line and at the edge positions where John Simon played 63% of the Patriots’ snaps against the Bills.
Elsewhere, Adam Butler saw his biggest playing time share since Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens which reflects how highly the team thinks of him as a true two-dimensional tackle capable of performing well against the pass and the run. Fellow defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton, meanwhile, once again saw a heavy workload and performing well while doing so.
Two other names stand out when looking at the list above: second-round rookie Joejuan Williams was on the field for 54% of New England’s defensive snaps, which is clearly a career-high for him after his previous best was 25% in Week 7. Veteran cornerback Jason McCourty, on the other hand, played only four snaps and had to leave the game early because of a groin injury that already forced him to miss three of the last four games.
Total snaps: 25
RB Brandon Bolden (21; 84%), CB Justin Bethel (21; 84%), SS Nate Ebner (21; 84%), WR Matthew Slater (18; 72%), RB Rex Burkhead (16; 64%), LB Chase Winovich (16; 64%), CB Joejuan Williams (14; 56%), P Jake Bailey (12; 48%), FS Devin McCourty (11; 44%), LB John Simon (10; 40%), DT Adam Butler (9; 36%), DT Lawrence Guy (9; 36%), Terrence Brooks (8; 32%), LB Shilique Calhoun (8; 32%), CB J.C. Jackson (6; 24%), FS Duron Harmon (6; 24%), DT Danny Shelton (6; 24%), LS Joe Cardona (6; 24%), WR Mohamed Sanu (5; 20%), SS Patrick Chung (5; 20%), LB Dont’a Hightower (5; 20%), OG Shaq Mason (4; 16%), OG Joe Thuney (4; 16%), OC Ted Karras (4; 16%), OT Marshall Newhouse (4; 16%), RB James White (4; 16%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (4; 16%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (4; 16%), K Nick Folk (4; 16%), OG James Ferentz (4; 16%), LB Elandon Roberts (3; 12%), RB Sony Michel (1; 4%), OT Marcus Cannon (1; 4%), CB Jason McCourty (1; 4%)
New England’s rookies did not only see regular action on offense and defense, but also in the kicking game. Chase Winovich, who played 11 of the team’s 54 defensive snaps, was on the field for 16 of 25 (64%) as a special teamer and continues to make an impact in the game’s third phase: playing on all four coverage units, Winovich finished the game with a pair of tackles — leading the team in this category.
Both Joejuan Williams and outstanding rookie punter/kickoff specialist Jake Bailey also played a high number of snaps on special teams, meanwhile, showing that the Patriots’ rookie class contributed in a big way to their win over the Bills.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham
With the Patriots’ game against the Bills a close affair through four quarters, 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 15 of the team’s games so far this season, but has seen the field just three times for a combined 15 offensive snaps.
CB Jonathan Jones, QB Cody Kessler, DT Byron Cowart, OG Jermaine Eluemunor, RB Damien Harris, TE Ryan Izzo, OT Korey Cunningham
The biggest name on New England’s list of game-day inactives on Saturday was slot cornerback Jonathan Jones, who missed the game because of a groin injury suffered the previous week. With Jason McCourty still struggling with his own groin issue, this situation is worth keeping a close eye on heading towards the postseason. The rest of the inactives, meanwhile, were all healthy scratches.