Much will be made of the idea that the Patriots won Monday night’s trip to Buffalo thanks to the team’s ability to control the bad-weather game with its rushing attack.
There’s good reason for that as that rushing attack churned out 46 attempts – including Damien Harris’ game-changing 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter – on the way to a victory that saw Mac Jones throw the ball just THREE! times.
But lost in the offense’s uniquely dominant effort was the fact that the Patriots needed a red zone defensive stand in the final minutes to hold onto the 14-10 victory.
The final play of that stand came when second-year backup defensive back Myles Bryant batted down Josh Allen’s final pass of the night shy of the goal line.
While Bryant has seen his reserve role grow in recent weeks, the former practice squader made his first NFL start and played a career-most 93-percent of the snaps in Buffalo in large part due to New England’s leading tackler Kyle Dugger missing the game to COVID.
Bryant, who has seen time at both cornerback and safety since landing in New England as an undrafted rookie a year ago, certainly has stood out in the back end for a Patriots secondary that’s lost depth with the departures of Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones over the course of the year.
Bryant’s game-clinching pass defense was just the latest example of his instincts and playmaking ability showing up in relatively limited playing time, according to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
“His instinctiveness shows up in practice a lot. It shows up in games a lot too. It's the kind of thing that, until you see it repetitively in games, sometimes it can be in practice and it's a little bit different in the game. Myles plays just as instinctively and fast in games as he does in practice,” Belichick said in a Tuesday morning Zoom with reporters. “He's an excellent communicator. He anticipates well. He works well with his teammates so that he puts himself and his teammates in the best position we can be in on certain formations, looks, and coverages, and those things. He does a good job of understanding what we're trying to do and where the threats are. A lot of times, when he's not threatened, he's able to help out somewhere else. That's one of those traits that you teach, but some guys have a better knack and feel for it than others, and he has a really good feel for it, especially for a relatively young and inexperienced player, although, after two years here, I think everybody has a lot of confidence in him always doing the right thing in every situation.”
Beyond Bryant’s big night and big play, here are some other notes from the Patriots snap counts in the windy win over the Bills in Buffalo:
--New England ran 51 offensive snaps against the Bills with six players playing every snap, a group that included Mac Jones and his starting offensive line of Isiah Wynn, Ted Karras, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Trent Brown.
--On the way to running the ball 46 times New England actually had six offensive linemen on the field more often than not with Mike Onwenu serving as the extra blocker on 31 snaps (61 percent).
--Onwenu’s increased role led to Hunter Henry playing a season-low 15 snaps (29 percent). Meanwhile Jonnu Smith – who had an athletic reception for one of Jones’ completions and 12 of the QB’s 19 passing yards – maintained his role as a blocking tight end with 39 snaps (76 percent). That was the most of any non-QB/OL on the night.
--Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson played 32 snaps (63 percent), in part because Damien Harris missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury. Stevenson’s career-high snap percentage saw him run the ball a career-high 24 times for 78 yards, a more productive effort than his 3.3-yard average might indicate given the circumstances.
--Limping off with the hamstring injury before halftime and then for good after a 17-yard run in the second half, Harris logged 13 snaps (25 percent). He made the most of them, running 10 times for 111 yards including the game-changing 64-yard score.
--Though it didn’t show up on the stat sheet with Jones throwing the ball just three times, Jakobi Meyers (27 snaps, 53 percent), Nelson Agholor (25 snaps, 49 percent) and N’Keal Harry (25 snaps, 49 percent) were all on the field plenty in Buffalo, Agholor was the only one who earned a pass target.
--Fullback Jakob Johnson logged a season-high 49 percent play time (25 snaps).
--Kendrick Bourne saw a season-low 15 snaps (29 percent).
--The Patriots defense was on the field for 58 snaps in Buffalo, Devin McCourty the only defender to play every snap.
--Safety Adrian Phillips missed only the final snap of the game with what looked like a knee issue after coming up with a late pass defense in the end zone.
--Jalen Mills and J.C. Jackson each played 56 snaps (97 percent).
--Ja’Whaun Bentley led front seven defenders with 54 snaps (93 percent), finishing with eight tackles.
--Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux played in 78 percent of the Patriots defensive snaps for the second straight game with much better results in Buffalo. A week after being a huge part of a front that allowed the Titans to rush for 270 yards, Godchaux led New England with a game-high 10 tackles as the Patriots held the Bills to 99 yards on ground, 39 yards coming from a scrambling Josh Allen.
--Christian Barmore saw his playing time decrease for the third straight week, logging 25 snaps (43 percent) in Buffalo.
--Practice squad call-up defensive lineman Daniel Ekuale played eight snaps (14 percent), but made the most of it with a sack of Allen among his two tackles.
--Reserve defensive backs Joejuan Williams (4 snaps, 7 percent) and recent roster addition Sean Davis (5 snaps, 9 percent) saw limited action, though Davis was on the field in the key red zone stand in the closing minutes.
--Core special teamers Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Brandon King and Cody Davis led the way with 21 snaps in the kicking game.
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