The New England Patriots have damn near done the impossible.
Since falling to 2-4 on October 17th, Bill Belichick’s squad has reeled off seven straight wins, without the benefit of a bye week, while holding their opponents to less than 11 points per game, and sticking to an outdated offensive identity,
Oh yeah, about that offensive identity. While the rest of the league has become reliant on their passing game, the Patriots have become a football team that wins on the ground. No other game better exemplifies that than their win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night. Sticking on the ground for 46 of their 49 offensive snaps, the Patriots were the team that overcame near-hurricane conditions to eek out a victory and stake their claim to the top seed in the AFC.
Find out exactly how they deployed their roster to do so, below.
Total snaps: 51
Mac Jones (51; 100%), C David Andrews (51; 100%), G Shaq Mason (51; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (51; 100%), OT Trent Brown (51; 100%), G Ted Karras (51; 100%), TE Jonnu Smith (39; 76%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (32; 63%), OT Michael Onwenu (31; 61%), WR Jakobi Meyers (27; 53%), FB Jakob Johnson (25; 49%), WR N’Keal Harry (25; 49%), WR Nelson Agholor (25; 49%), TE Hunter Henry (15; 29%), WR Kendrick Bourne (15; 29%), RB Damien Harris (13; 25%), RB Brandon Bolden (6; 12%), WR Matthew Slater (2; 4%)
In a game in which they ran the ball on 48 of their 51 offensive snaps, the Patriots often deployed their “jumbo” package. That lead to some of the wonkiest play-time numbers that we’ve seen all season.
Mac Jones and his starting offensive line were the constants in this one, with each of those six players going the distance on Monday, while reserve lineman Michael Onwenu got a 61% share of his own as the “blocking tight end” for the night. Jonnu Smith, who actually gets paid to play tight end, also played a big role in the running game having played 76% of the snaps himself. Jakob Johnson (49%) even beat out Hunter Henry (29%) to be the third man in line, as Jones’ favorite red zone target wasn’t needed much in the run game.
Rhamondre Stevenson (63%) got the bulk of the load for the running backs with Damien Harris (25%) leaving the game shortly after halftime with a hamstring injury. Brandon Bolden served in a long yardage role on their downs, contributing on six snaps of his own. The receivers saw playing time based on their blocking prowess, as Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, and Nelson Agholor each rotated in and out of the lineup with around 50% if the snaps, while Kendrick Bourne saw just 15 plays on offense.
Total snaps: 58
S Devin McCourty (58; 100%), S Adrian Phillips (57; 98%), CB Jalen Mills (56; 97%), CB J.C. Jackson (59; 97%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (54; 93%), DB Myles Bryant (54; 93%), LB Matthew Judon (49; 84%), DT Davon Godchaux (45; 78%), LB Kyle Van Noy (45; 78%), LB Dont’a Hightower (44; 76%), DT Lawrence Guy (33; 57%), DT Christian Barmore (25; 43%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (25; 43%), LB Jamie Collins (15; 26%), DT Daniel Ekuale (8; 14%), DT Carl Davis (5; 9%), DB Sean Davis (5; 9%), CB Joejuan Williams (4; 7%)
In a game where they had no idea of what the Bills could be looking to do on offense, the Patriots stuck to their big guns and kept their rotations tight. The top 10 players in terms of snap percentage all eclipsed the 75% mark, barely leaving the field and making for one of the most taxing games we’ve seen the defense play.
Amongst that group, Myles Bryant made the biggest leap as he essentially took Kyle Dugger’s snap share and was on the field for 54 of New England’s 58 defensive snaps. Amongst the reserves, we saw the likes of Sean Davis and Daniel Ekuale crack the lineup from the practice squad, while Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise Jr, and Carl Davis rotated in around run stopping specialist Davon Godchaux.
Total snaps: 23
WR Matthew Slater (21; 91%), S Cody Davis (21; 91%), LB Brandon King (21; 91%), CB Justin Bethel (21; 91%), RB Brandon Bolden (18; 78%), LB Calvin Munson (15; 65%), LB Chase Winovich (15; 65%), WR Gunner Olszewski (12; 52%), CB Joejuan Williams (10; 43%), P Jake Bailey (8; 35%), LS Joe Cardona (8; 35%), FB Jakob Johnson (8; 35%), LB Matthew Judon (8; 35%), DT Lawrence Guy (8; 35%), LB Jamie Collins (8; 35%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (7; 30%), K Nick Folk (6; 26%), S Adrian Phillips (4; 17%), WR N’Keal Harry (4; 17%), S Devin McCourty (3; 13%), DT Davon Godchaux (3; 13%), LB Dont’a Hightower (3; 13%), DT Christian Barmore (3; 13%), TE Hunter Henry (3; 13%), DB Myles Bryant (3; 13%), OT Isaiah Wynn (2; 9%), Shaq Mason (2; 9%), OT Trent Brown (2; 9%), G Ted Karras (2; 9%), OL Michael Onwenu (2; 9%), OT Justin Herron (2; 9%)
With some key special team contributors missing Monday night’s matchup, we saw some veteran starters step up and help fill the void. Ja’Whaun Bentley, Dont’a Hightower, and Devin McCourty all contributed for the likes of Jahlani Tavai and Kyle Dugger who were unavailable for the game. Other than that, Slater, Bethel, C. Davis, King, Bolden, and Munson continued to prove their worth as special teams players, while Chase Winovich finds himself lumped in with that group this week, playing zero snaps on defense.
Did Not Play
QB Brian Hoyer, OL Yodny Cajuste
There was no blowout victory this week for the Patriots, meaning Brian Hoyer stayed on the sideline as Mac Jones handled all of New England’s offensive snaps at quarterback. Yodny Cajuste was removed from New England’s special teams units a few weeks ago and could not find the field throughout Monday’s game despite the heavy emphasis on big bodies.
QB Jarrett Stidham, TE Devin Asiasi, OLB Ronnie Perkins, OL Yasir Durant, CB Shaun Wade, LB Jahlani Tavai
COVID List: S Kyle Dugger, RB JJ Taylor
The Patriots inactive list has looked pretty much the same over the past few weeks. Stidham, Asiasi, Perkins, and Durant have all become healthy mainstays, while Wade and Tavai each found themselves on it as healthy scratches despite playing last week.
Kyle Dugger and J.J. Taylor of course did not play due to testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.