A look at playing time
Several times this year I’ve thought to myself after a convincing win; “And the Buffalo Bills didn’t even put together a total team effort.” On a frigid Saturday night against the New England Patriots the Bills put together a total team effort—and it was glorious. Let’s dive into playing time!
Offense (56 snaps)
The 100% club was short two members as Josh Allen and Mitch Morse sat out the last few plays to bring in Mitch Trubisky and the kneel-down crew. Daryl Williams, Dion Dawkins, Spencer Brown, and Ryan “Rick” Bates all made the cut.
The “heavier” trend we’ve seen in recent weeks out of Buffalo continues. Dawson Knox hit 88%, Reggie Gilliam was in for a third of the game, and Tommy Doyle hit 20%. Add in five more extra linemen snaps and that’s a lot more than Buffalo had been using earlier in the season.
Gabriel Davis has also been emphasized with the new-look offense, which continues as well. He outpaced Stefon Diggs by five snaps. They were both comfortably ahead of the pack of Emmanuel Sanders, Isaiah McKenzie, Cole Beasley, and Jake Kumerow. The only surprise in that order is Beasley behind McKenzie and that’s a small shock.
Devin Singletary remains the workhorse back at 86%. That’s his second highest total of the season, behind only the Carolina game. Zack Moss saw a few reps.
Defense (63 snaps)
With the starters being pulled earlier than the ones on offense and the usual rotation, this is a long list. Only Dane Jackson saw the field the whole game. Micah Hyde, Tremaine Edmunds, Jordan Poyer, Levi Wallace, and Matt Milano were all pulled for 15 snaps or 24% of the game. Let that sink in. For nearly a quarter of the game the defensive starters weren’t necessary.
The Bills ran nickel defense 78% of the time, lower than their usual but about right for run-heavy opponents. This is corroborated with A.J. Klein’s snap counts. At 22 plays, that’s seven higher than what it would take to “replace” one of the pulled starters. Compare that to Tyler Matakevich’s counts.
With the starters resting so early, the defensive-line rotations are hard to put too much stock into. For the ends, Greg Rousseau led the pack, with A.J. Epenesa, Boogie Basham, Jerry Hughes, and Mario Addison following. Overall it was a pretty tight grouping.
Defensive tackles are another story with Harrison Phillips 11 snaps higher than Ed Oliver. They were both well above Vernon Butler and Star Lotulelei. With the rest of the defense seemingly run-oriented, Lotulelei’s continued low snap counts seem significant. There were four “missing” defensive tackle snaps taken by the ends. That’s a fairly low number for the usually speedy Buffalo defense.
Special teams (25 snaps)
The usual source for these is running a bit behind so I went with my secondary source, which makes it very difficult to get a good graphic for special teams. Reggie Gilliam was comfortably in the lead this week at 84%. Mainstay Tyler Matakevich was second at 68%. Matt Haack had seven snaps. One for each extra point try as the holder. No-punt games are often the best games.