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Patriots vs. Bills snap count report: New England keeps rotations tight in 33-21 loss

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 33-21 loss to Bills

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

The New England Patriots didn’t just lose their second straight game on Sunday, but they lost their grasp on the AFC East crown when the Buffalo Bills came to town and handed them a thorough beating.

Falling 33-21, New England kept a tight rotation in what felt like a playoff game. Despite not being able to force a single punt, the Patriots stuck with the usual suspects in an attempt to stop Josh Allen. On offense, they were without a pair of key contributors. That tied their hands and made it so they had to rely on whatever healthy contributors they had left.

The stakes of this game and the way that New England’s coaching staff chose to deploy their roster gave us a pretty good glimpse into how much they trust their reserve players and who they expect to step up in a pinch. Headed into the home stretch, the Patriots dealt with new arrivals, returns, and increased roles on Sunday. Here is the story on each one of those played into the result of the game.

Offense

Total snaps: 64

Mac Jones (64; 100%), C David Andrews (64; 100%), G Shaq Mason (64; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (64; 100%), OT Trent Brown (64; 100%), G Ted Karras (64; 100%), WR N’Keal Harry (61; 95%), TE Hunter Henry (55; 86%), WR Jakobi Meyers (48; 75%), RB Brandon Bolden (34; 53%), RB Damien Harris (31; 48%), WR Kendrick Bourne (30; 47%), TE Jonnu Smith (21; 33%), OT Michael Onwenu (17; 27%), FB Jakob Johnson (16; 25%), WR Gunner Olszewski (4; 6%), WR Kristian Wilkerson (3; 5%),

Much like they did in Week 15 against the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots fell behind on Sunday. That led to the game unfolding in a similar way, where the offense was forced to throw the ball for the majority of the second half, which factored into individual snap counts.

Up front New England stayed healthy throughout the contest and saw all five of it’s starting offensive lineman go the distance alongside quarterback Mac Jones. They were joined by jumbo tight end Michael Onwenu and fullback Jakob Johnson for 17 and 16 snaps respectively, nearly all run plays. Brandon Bolden —New England’s defect third down running back— outpaced Damien Harris in the latter’s return to play this week.

For the first time this season, N’Keal Harry led the Patriots skill group in playing time as he took over Nelson Agholor’s lost reps while also playing his usual role in the run game. He was followed closely behind by Hunter Henry and Jakobi Meyers who have become Mac Jones’ most reliable targets throughout this season. Despite missing the entire week of practice on the COVID list, Kendrick Bourne still played more than Jonnu Smith, Gunner Olszewski, and Kristian Wilkerson, a small but noticeable surprise.

Defense

Total snaps: 79

S Devin McCourty (79; 100%), CB Jalen Mills (79; 100%), CB J.C. Jackson (74; 94%), LB Kyle Van Noy (71; 90%), DB Myles Bryant (69; 87%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (68; 86%), LB Matthew Judon (66; 84%), S Adrian Phillips (58; 73%), DT Davon Godchaux (52; 66%), S Kyle Dugger (50; 63%), LB Dont’a Hightower (41; 52%), DT Lawrence Guy (39; 49%), DT Christian Barmore (39; 49%), LB Jamie Collins (37; 47%), DT Daniel Ekuale (21; 27%), DT Carl Davis (14; 18%), LB Josh Uche (7; 9%), CB D’Angelo Ross (5, 6%)

The Patriots are falling into the trap of running out the same looks on defense each week. Their rotation has become pretty exclusive, with just 14 players getting significant snaps for them on defense this past Sunday. Though there were some jumps and falls, on any given snap you had a good idea of who was out there.

Those who did see a heavy change in snaps from the Indianapolis game where Myles Bryant (+47%), Ja’Whaun Bentley (+65%), and Christian Barmore (-18%). Bentley’s injury in Indianapolis took him out early which explains the major jump, but Kyle Dugger didn’t experience the same kind of boost even though he missed most of the second half against the Colts after being ejected. That could be because Myles Bryant played the highest snap count percentage of his career, logging 87% of New England’s defensive snaps as their slot cornerback. Christian Barmore’s playing time fell off considerably following his third quarter blunder where he jumped offsides and gifted the Bills five yards.

Special Teams

Total snaps: 22

WR Matthew Slater (19; 86%), S Cody Davis (19; 86%), CB Justin Bethel (19; 86%), LB Jahlani Tavai (19; 86%), LB Chase Winovich (14; 64%), RB Brandon Bolden (14; 64%), LB Brandon King (14; 64%), FB Jakob Johnson (12; 55%), WR Gunner Olszewski (11; 50%), P Jake Bailey (10; 45%), S Kyle Dugger (10; 45%), LB Jamie Collins (8; 36%), DT Lawrence Guy (8; 36%), LS Joe Cardona (6; 27%), TE Jonnu Smith (6; 27%), WR Kristian Wilkerson (6; 27%), DB Myles Bryant (5; 23%), LB Matthew Judon (5; 23%), DT Christian Barmore (5; 23%), S Adrian Phillips (5; 23%), DT Davon Godchaux (5; 23%), K Nick Folk (3; 14%), OT Isaiah Wynn (3; 14%), G Shaq Mason (3; 14%), OT Trent Brown (3; 14%), G Ted Karras (3; 14%), OT Justin Herron (3; 14%), OL Michael Onwenu (3; 14%), LB Josh Uche (1; 5%)

S Devin McCourty (8; 32%), DT Christian Barmore (7; 28%), TE Hunter Henry (6; 24%), WR N’Keal Harry (6; 24%), CB Jalen Mills (2; 8%), LB Dont’a Hightower (2; 8%), CB Shaun Wade (2; 8%), WR Jakobi Meyers (1; 4%)

Following a game where they had a punt blocked and a key penalty that gifted their opponent three crucial points, the Patriots scaled back on the amount of players they rolled out on special teams. New England deployed 29 players on Sunday, an eight player decrease from the week before.

Did Not Play

QB Brian Hoyer, OL Yodny Cajuste, RB J.J. Taylor

Similarly to last week, New England’s fight until the bitter end, led to some players manning the sidelines. Neither Brian Hoyer, Yodny Cajuste, or J.J. Taylor saw the field on Sunday with the starters ahead of them essentially going the distance.

Inactive

WR Nelson Agholor, QB Jarrett Stidham, S Joshuah Bledsoe, CB JoeJuan Williams, CB Shaun Wade, TE Devin Asiasi

COVID List: RB Rhamondre Stevenson, DL Deatrich Wise Jr., OT Yasir Durant

The most glaring inactive on New England’s side was reserve running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who missed Sunday’s game on the COVID list.

Stidham, Asiasi, and Bledsoe weren’t surprises, but JoeJuan Williams and Shaun Wade being passed over for practice squad corner D’Angelo Ross may be categorized as such. Ross would play zero snaps on special teams and just five on defense.