Buffalo changes its running back rotation, while Tre’Davious White sees a big jump in reps
After two back-to-back “get-right” wins over the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions to bring their record to 8-3, the Buffalo Bills had quite the task last night on Thursday Night Football: hit the road for the third time in 12 days and beat head coach Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots. The Bills’ 0-2 divisional record was the primary thing holding them back from first place in the AFC East — and even the No. 1 seed — making this Patriots game a must-win.
Buffalo won the game, 24-10, and effectively dominated from start to finish, extending its win streak to three games and improving their overall record to 9-3.
Injuries have derailed the true potential of this Bills team all season, but the Week 13 injury report was arguably the cleanest it’s been since Week 1. Only edge rusher Von Miller (knee) and left tackle Dion Dawkins (ankle) were declared out ahead of the game, with tight end Quintin Morris (illness) and rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam (healthy scratch) ruled out after pre-game workouts.
Let’s take a look at the Week 13 snap counts to suss out some new trends in Buffalo.
Bills offense snap counts (75 snaps)
Center Mitch Morse (100%) returning to the lineup was huge for the Bills’ offense, especially with Dawkins declared out ahead of time. A big area of concern was containing Patriots pass rusher Matthew Judon, the league’s sack leader, and the Bills did just—that limiting him to just one QB hit all game. Reserve tackle David Quessenberry suited up at left tackle in place of Dawkins, and struggled quite a bit while playing through a quadruple-taped ankle simply because the Bills didn’t have enough offensive line depth. Shoutout to Quessenberry!
The recent signing of wide receiver John Brown (12 snaps) excited Bills Mafia for a better passing attack, and given that this was his first action in months, his low snap count was expected. It is concerning at this point that he almost out-snapped rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir (21%), who remains a non-factor despite the very clear and wide gap between Stefon Diggs and the next best Bills receiver. Isaiah McKenzie (52%) has had his fair share of struggles this season, but always plays well against New England, catching all five of his targets for 44 yards, including multiple crucial third-down conversions.
The three-headed rushing attack comprised of Devin Singletary (44%), James Cook (43%) and Nyheim Hines (31%) should be the main takeaway here. Bills fans, myself included, have wanted more of Cook all season, and he’s been slowly emerging the last few weeks — so his 20 touches (including six receptions) and 105 total yards should be enough to warrant more of this rep split moving forward. As much as Cook flashed, Singletary is still a crucial part of this offense, and his snaps won’t just disappear anytime soon unless his drop issues continue. Tight end Dawson Knox logged 84% of snaps, but failed to haul in his lone target. Why won’t offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey use a guy the Bills just extended this past offseason?
Bills defense snap counts (54 snaps)
The decision to make rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam — the Bills’ first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft — a healthy scratch was quite possibly the biggest head-scratcher of the season thus far, especially with veteran cornerback Tre’Davious White (61%) still ramping up after a year-long ACL rehab. Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes (87%) and Dane Jackson (52%) rotated all game, but the most common pairing was Rhodes and White. Considering how much Jackson struggled versus the Lions on Thanksgiving, the veteran presence of Rhodes certainly boosted the defensive confidence elsewhere.
The safety tandem of Damar Hamlin and Jordan Poyer proved to be a big reason for the defensive success forcing turnovers — even though the refs don’t know what a catch is these days — and taking away those big chunk plays. Hamlin had a few moments to forget, but he’ll only get better the more he plays alongside Poyer.
The most concerning area of the defense was the front line, after hearing pre-game that Von Miller had been placed on IR. The depth has been impressive all season, but it’s no surprise that the production will decline without him rushing the passer. Defensive tackles Ed Oliver (72%) and DaQuan Jones (56%) led the way within the interior of the line, while defensive ends Greg Rousseau (63%) and Shaq Lawson (61%) led on the outside. It’s not surprising to see Lawson log such a high snap count, because the Bills opted to roll with the defensive line combination that excelled in stopping the run — and he recorded a tackle for a loss as a result.
Bills special teams snaps (24 snaps)
- 20 snaps, 83%: RB Taiwan Jones, LB Tyler Matakevich
- 19 snaps, 79%: LB Tyrel Dodson, CB Siran Neal
- 18 snaps, 75%: S Jaquan Johnson
- Others: TE Tommy Sweeney (15 snaps, 62%), FB Reggie Gilliam (14 snaps, 58%), K Tyler Bass (9 snaps, 38%), P Sam Martin (7 snaps, 29%)
With Morris sidelined, tight end Tommy Sweeney simply took over his role, logging 15 special teams snaps. Kicker Tyler Bass wasn’t asked to kick nearly as much as he has done the past two weeks, but came up big when it mattered—drilling a 48-yard field goal and three extra points.
The no-punt streak has officially come to an end, as punter Sam Martin punted three times last night. The Bills had not punted against the Patriots since 2020, and scored on 17-of-23 offensive possessions.