Patriots fans might not have noticed there were big changes made on defense vs Bills
By Jerry Trotta
The Patriots made major changes on the defensive side of the ball during Sunday’s loss to Buffalo.
If there was a silver lining to be had for fans in New England following Sunday’s crushing loss to Buffalo, it probably lies in the fact that the Patriots came closer to notching a win than they had in their previous three games, which they lost by a combined 49 points.
At the same time, however, the defeat has the Patriots on the outside of the AFC playoff picture. While their schedule lightens up during the final two months of the regular season, fans would be hard-pressed to picture a scenario where they make a late surge and get in.
Either way, the biggest takeaway from Sunday, at least in our eyes, was the struggles of the defense, which offered zero resistance against the run. The Bills’ top two running backs, Devin Singletary and Zack Moss both racked up over 80 yards on the ground. The Pats surrendered a total of 190 rushing yards.
When you take the ineffectiveness of the front seven into consideration — it managed just one sack of Josh Allen — it really makes you wonder why head coach Bill Belichick made drastic changes on that side of the ball.
Two players who’ve been relied on heavily in recent weeks, edge rusher Chase Winovich and linebacker Anfernee Jennings, saw their roles decreased in emphatic fashion on Sunday, playing a combined five (!) snaps.
Does anybody know what’s going on with Winovich? His lack of playing time in recent weeks has been a concerning trend following his hot start to the season. Over the last three games, the 2019 third-round pick played 34% of the defensive snaps against the Chiefs, 20% vs San Francisco, and 9% of the share against the Bills.
This comes after he played an average of 65.7% of the snaps in the first four games of the season, across which he tallied 14 tackles (three for loss), 2.5 sacks and six QB hits.
While we don’t have an answer for the previous two games, perhaps Winovich’s increased time on the bench on Sunday came down to the Patriots’ focus on thwarting Buffalo’s aerial attack. Each of New England’s top six defensive backs played over 90% of the snaps with cornerback Stephon Gilmore sidelined with a knee injury. In fairness to Belichick, this strategy worked wonders as Allen finished 11-of-18 for 154 yards and an interception.
However, the lack of edge-rushing personnel made the Patriots incredibly vulnerable against the run and Buffalo adjusted by feeding Singletary and Moss a combined 28 carries, which they turned into 167 yards (5.9 YPC).
Fans might not have noticed these changes while the game was being played, but given the end result they have every right to question why Belichick and Co. essentially decided to bench a budding stud in Winovich and a player in Jennings who played 80% of the snaps last Sunday.