Another week, another New England Patriots loss. The team’s third straight defeat did not impact the team’s playoff outlook — it was already eliminated from the tournament last week — but it still was a disappointing one: New England was blown out 38-9 by the Buffalo Bills in a game that was never really close after the first two drives. The Patriots therefore fall to 6-9 on the season, and will finish below .500 for the first time since 2000.
Let’s now take a look back at the contest to see how New England opted to use the talent on its roster, and who played the biggest roles versus the Bills.
Total snaps: 50
G Joe Thuney (50; 100%), OT/G Michael Onwenu (50; 100%), WR Jakobi Meyers (50; 100%), WR Damiere Byrd (50; 100%), TE Devin Asiasi (47; 94%), OT Justin Herron (44; 88%), C David Andrews (41; 82%), QB Cam Newton (33; 66%), G Shaq Mason (30; 60%), WR N’Keal Harry (30; 60%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (26; 52%), FB Jakob Johnson (19; 38%), RB Sony Michel (19; 38%), QB Jarrett Stidham (17; 34%), RB J.J. Taylor (16; 32%), RB James White (16; 32%), C James Ferentz (9; 18%), TE Dalton Keene (3; 6%)
The Patriots used plenty of different personnel combinations on the offense side of the ball, with two factors contributing to them: not only was the game essentially out of reach at the half, with Buffalo up 24-9 after 30 minutes, New England also suffered some injuries along its offensive line. As a result of this and another minor rotation at left tackle, only Joe Thuney and Michael Onwenu as well as Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd finished with a 100 percent playing time share.
Shaq Mason and David Andrews leaving the game because of foot and calf injuries in the second half created opportunities for other linemen. James Ferentz played nine snaps at center — the second straight week he had to replace Andrews — while Jermaine Eluemunor saw 20 at right tackle after already playing six earlier on the left side; Onwenu moved inside to right guard for his final 20 snaps of the day as Thuney and Justin Herron played all of their respective snaps at left guard and tackle.
Elsewhere, one name stands out: rookie tight end Devin Asiasi appears to be establishing himself as New England’s number one tight end with Ryan Izzo still on injured reserve. While he split snaps with fellow third-round pick Dalton Keene the last two weeks, Asiasi was on the field for all but three of the Patriots’ 50 on Monday night. Keene took the field for the other three, with the duo seeing no playing time alongside each other.
Total snaps: 72
S Adrian Phillips (62; 86%); CB Jonathan Jones (61; 85%), CB J.C. Jackson (59; 82%), CB Jason McCourty (57; 79%), DT Adam Butler (55; 76%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (52; 72%), LB John Simon (46; 64%), S Kyle Dugger (43; 60%), S Terrence Brooks (42; 58%), LB Anfernee Jennings (37; 51%), LB Chase Winovich (35; 49%), S Devin McCourty (35; 49%), LB Josh Uche (31; 43%), DT Byron Cowart (30; 42%), DT Nick Thurman (28; 39%), CB Joejuan Williams (27; 38%), LB Terez Hall (24; 33%), DT Akeem Spence (22; 31%), CB Myles Bryant (22; 31%), LB Tashawn Bower (15; 21%), LB Cassh Maluia (8; 11%)
With Stephon Gilmore out for the season after suffering a partially torn quad last week, the Patriots’ top-three at cornerback consisted of Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty — the three played 61, 59 and 57 of the team’s defensive snaps, respectively. Alongside with safety Adrian Phillips they led the team. One player is suspiciously absent from the top of the playing time list: Devin McCourty had to leave the contest because of a shoulder injury just 35 snaps in.
McCourty was the highest-profile injury but not the only one that changed the Patriots’ defensive personnel. Outside linebackers Josh Uche (leg) and Tashawn Bower (neck) both left the game in the second quarter — leaving the team thinner than desired alongside starter-level options John Simon and Chase Winovich — while off-the-ball linebackers Terez Hall (ankle) and Anfernee Jennings (?) joined them on the sidelines in the second half.
Those injuries in combination with the game script both led to some increased playing time for players who otherwise would see little to no opportunity on defense. Accordingly, players such as Terrence Brooks (42 snaps), Nick Thurman (28), Joejuan Williams (27) and Cassh Maluia (8) all were given regular snaps they would likely not have gotten under ideal circumstances.
Total snaps: 28
CB Justin Bethel (26; 93%), WR Matthew Slater (26; 93%), S Cody Davis (26; 93%), LB Chase Winovich (23; 82%), LB Anfernee Jennings (21; 75%), WR Donte Moncrief (17; 61%), FB Jakob Johnson (16; 57%), S Terrence Brooks (14; 50%), S Kyle Dugger (13; 46%), CB Joejuan Williams (13; 46%), WR Gunner Olszewski (13; 46%), P Jake Bailey 812; 43%), S Adrian Phillips (10; 36%), CB Jonathan Jones (9; 32%), LS Joe Cardona (9; 32%), LB Tashawn Bower (7; 25%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (6; 21%), DT Byron Cowart (6; 21%), DT Akeem Spence (6; 21%), LB Cassh Maluia (6; 21%), S Devin McCourty (4; 14%), LB Josh Uche (4; 14%), LB John Simon (3; 11%), CB Myles Bryant (3; 11%), G Joe Thuney (2; 7%), OT/G Michael Onwenu (2; 7%), OT Justin Herron (2; 7%), G Shaq Mason (2; 7%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (2; 7%), OT Korey Cunningham (2; 7%), K Nick Folk (2; 7%), LB Terez Hall (1; 4%)
The Patriots used 32 different players in the kicking game, with nine of them being used exclusively in the game’s third phase: special teamers Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona and Nick Folk, as well as core coverage players Justin Bethel, Matthew Slater and Cody Davis. Return men Donte Moncrief and Gunner Olszewski also did not see any action in their listed positions of wide receiver, whie Korey Cunningham was not inserted along the offensive line.
As was the case at times earlier during the season as well, linebackers Chase Winovich and Anfernee Jennings again saw a hefty workload — showing that they have value to the team beyond defense, even if they are being used on a rotational at their nominal positions.
Did not play
Given that Jarrett Stidham was inserted into the lineup in the third quarter, and that injuries forced the Patriots to adapt on the fly, the team used every single player on its game-day roster: all 49 men who were active saw the field at one point.
QB Brian Hoyer, RB Damien Harris, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, C Marcus Martin, LB Shilique Calhoun, DT Lawrence Guy
The Patriots had not ruled any players out heading into Monday — tight end Jordan Thomas was sent from “out” to the Coronavirus reserve list on Saturday — but still ended up with six inactives following a series of practice squad elevations. Among those who were unable to see the field were starting-caliber players on both sides of the ball: Damien Harris (ankle), Lawrence Guy (shoulder) and Ja’Whaun Bentley (shoulder).