The New England Patriots were closer to full strength than they were a week ago against the Houston Texans, but the eventual result against the Kansas City Chiefs remained the same: the team was unable to register its 11th victory of the season and fell 23-16 to its visiting opponent. With that out of the way, let’s dig a little deeper into the snap count numbers from Sunday’s game to get an impression of how the Patriots used their players.
Total snaps: 67
OG Shaq Mason (67; 100%), OC James Ferentz (67; 100%), OT Marcus Cannon (67; 100%), QB Tom Brady (67; 100%), OG Joe Thuney (67; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (67; 100%), WR Julian Edelman (66; 99%), TE Matt LaCosse (54; 81%), RB James White (41; 61%), WR Mohamed Sanu (39; 58%), WR Jakobi Meyers (38; 57%), WR Phillip Dorsett II (33; 49%), TE Benjamin Watson (32; 48%), RB Rex Burkhead (18; 27%), RB Sony Michel (9; 13%), RB Brandon Bolden (2; 3%), WR N’Keal Harry (2; 3%), LB Elandon Roberts (1; 1%)
While Tom Brady and the starting offensive line — including third-string center James Ferenetz, who filled in for an injured Ted Karras — did not leave the field even once against the Chiefs, the Patriots used a heavy rotation elsewhere. Of the skill position players, only wide receiver Julian Edelman rarely left the field as the other spots saw players move in and out of the lineup on a regular basis:
- Wide receiver: Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers and Phillip Dorsett saw action as the second and third options alongside Edelman. Sanu’s workload increased after he played only 19 snaps last week but the in-season trade acquisition still appears to be limited because of an ankle injury suffered in Week 11. Meyers and Dorsett, meanwhile, both appear to be at full strength even though their impact on the game remains inconsistent.
- Tight end: After an injury-plagued start to the season, Matt LaCosse has taken over the number one tight end spot from Benjamin Watson. For the second week in a row, the free agency signing looked good playing considerable snaps while Watson served as a rotational option in two tight end sets.
- Running back: The Patriots entered the game trying to establish a presence on the ground, but falling behind 20-7 at the half changed their plans. As a result, receiving back James White finished as the running back position’s leader in snaps with 41. Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead served as a change-of-pace option alongside him — all while Sony Michel played only nine total offensive snaps, with four of them coming on the opening drive.
Michel was not the only former first-round draft pick to only play a marginal role against Kansas City: rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry almost made one of the game’s biggest plays — a catch-and-run that was erroneously ruled out of bounds instead of a touchdown — but he was a no-show for most of the contest and played just two total snaps. With the rest of New England’s wide receiver corps struggling, his lack of playing time continues to be puzzling.
Total snaps: 78
FS Devin McCourty (78; 100%), CB Jonathan Jones (78; 100%), CB Stephon Gilmore (78; 100%), SS Patrick Chung (77; 99%), LB Dont’a Hightower (68; 87%), Jamie Collins Sr. (68; 87%), FS Duron Harmon (64; 82%), LB Kyle Van Noy (60; 77%), CB J.C. Jackson (59; 76%), LB John Simon (36; 46%), DT Lawrence Guy (35; 45%), DT Adam Butler (35; 45%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (27; 35%), DT Danny Shelton (25; 32%), LB Chase Winovich (24; 31%), LB Shilique Calhoun (21; 27%), SS Terrence Brooks (14; 18%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (6; 8%), CB Jason McCourty (4; 5%), CB Justin Bethel (1; 1%)
The Patriots welcomed starting cornerback Jason McCourty back after a two-game absence because of a groin injury. However, the veteran defender was on the field for only four of the team’s 78 defensive snaps. The majority of action, meanwhile, went to Jonathan Jones and Stephon Gilmore with J.C. Jackson playing three-fourths of the game as well. Despite McCourty’s virtual absence and Jones starting the game inconsistently, New England’s secondary competed well against a talented opponent.
Said opponent poses more of a threat through the air than on the ground, and the Patriots’ personnel usage reflected it: outside linebackers John Simon and Chase Winovich saw considerable action, with defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. seeing his highest playing time share of the season. At defensive tackle, meanwhile, Adam Butler was the number two option alongside Lawrence Guy — further proof that New England was concerned about stopping the pass first and foremost.
New England’s linebackers also saw plenty of snaps against Kansas City, and generally performed well. Dont’a Hightower, who at one point was spotted on the sidelines with a knee wrapped up, and Jamie Collins were both on the field for 68 plays, with Kyle Van Noy adding 60. What does stand out is that rotational option Elandon Roberts did not play on defense against Kansas City: while this is per se unsurprising considering his status as a run-first player, his usage came as a fullback on offense and a member of the Patriots’ kicking game units.
Total snaps: 26
RB Brandon Bolden (23; 88%), CB Justin Bethel (23; 88%), SS Nate Ebner (23; 88%), WR Matthew Slater (18; 69%), RB Rex Burkhead (17; 65%), LB Chase Winovich (17; 65%), SS Terrence Brooks (13; 50%), P Jake Bailey (11; 42%), FS Devin McCourty (10; 38%), LB John Simon (10; 38%), LB Shilique Calhoun (10; 38%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (10; 38%), LB Elandon Roberts (9; 35%), CB Jonathan Jones (9; 35%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (9; 35%), DT Lawrence Guy (9; 35%), DT Adam Butler (9; 35%), DT Danny Shelton (8; 31%), LS Joe Cardona (7; 27%), RB James White (6; 23%), LB Dont’a Hightower (6; 23%), CB J.C. Jackson (4; 15%), OG Shaq Mason (3; 12%), OC James Ferentz (3; 12%), OT Marcus Cannon (3; 12%), WR Mohamed Sanu (3; 12%), OG Jermaine Eluemunor (3; 12%), K Nick Folk (3; 12%), OT Marshall Newhouse (3; 12%), WR N’Keal Harry (2; 8%), RB Sony Michel (1; 4%), SS Patrick Chung (1; 4%)
New England used 32 members of its 46-man game day roster on special teams, with seven of them playing exclusively in the kicking game: Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater saw their normal high workload, with the three specialists — punter Jake Bailey, long snapper Joe Cardona, kicker Nick Folk — and offensive linemen Jermaine Eluemunor and Marshall Newhouse also seeing the field. One name not listed does stand out, though.
Justin Bethel, who was signed by the Patriots in late October saw his first action on defense since Week 11: he played one snap as a rotational cornerback, with the majority of his action once again coming on special teams.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham
With the Patriots playing another close game that was not decided until the late fourth quarter, 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 13 of the team’s games so far this season, but has seen the field just three times for a combined 15 offensive snaps.
OC Ted Karras, DT Byron Cowart, CB Joejuan Williams, QB Cody Kessler, OT Korey Cunningham, TE Ryan Izzo, RB Damien Harris
The Patriots entered the weekend with eight players listed on their injury report. Only two of them, however, were already ruled out before Sunday: starting center Ted Karras missed the game due to a knee injury suffered last week and was replaced in the starting lineup by veteran backup James Ferentz; defensive tackle Byron Cowart because of a head injury. The rest of the inactives are little more than depth players at this point in time.