The New England Patriots’ unique offensive game plan against the Buffalo Bills raised plenty of eyebrows: the team attempted only three passes all game long, instead relying on its ground attack to carry the unit. When all was said and done, New England had run the ball 44 times in windy conditions. The Patriots won 14-10.
The plan worked in large part because of the defense making key stops, but also because of the offensive line generating enough of a push to keep moving the ball even against stacked boxes. One key factor in that was the regular usage of heavy personnel groups: New England used six offensive linemen on 61 percent of their snaps — the highest such number since 2016.
The sixth player to line up along the starting five was second-year man Michael Onwenu. A former starter himself, Onwenu has served in a backup role since Week 10. Nonetheless, he continues to help the New England offense on a regular basis.
Quarterback Mac Jones said so himself after the game in Buffalo.
“Big Mike [deserves credit] for coming in as a jumbo guy, along with the five offensive linemen,” he said. “Obviously, the running backs and receivers did their thing, but everyone that was involved in blocking deserves credit.”
Onwenu played 31 of 51 snaps versus the Bills, lining up as an extra blocker on either side of the formation. He has now played 74 offensive snaps over the last four weeks, averaging 18.5 per contest.
“I think it just goes back to playing your role and he’s played a lot of football in different spots,” said Jones about him.
“The five guys we have up there are great and any way we can improve the blocking schemes in a game like that was great. I think it just shows that we have a bunch of guys that care for one another. We’re not worried about who’s in what position, who scores, or who does this and that. We just want to go out there and put a good piece together and have a productive play.”
Onwenu originally opened the season as New England’s left guard, taking over for free agency departee Joe Thuney. He started the first four games at the position, but had to sit out the Patriots’ Week 5 contest in Houston on the Covid-19 reserve list.
Following his return, Onwenu was moved to right tackle to help replace injured starter Trent Brown. In the meantime, Ted Karras established himself as the team’s left guard of choice. This meant that his predecessor was headed for the bench once Brown returned to the lineup — something he did in Week 10.
With New England using a starting line consisting of left tackle Isaiah Wynn, Karras, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and Brown, Onwenu was destined for a reserve role. As the last four weeks and the game in Buffalo in particular have shown, however, he keeps proving his value on a regular basis.