Why Xavier Rhodes got the start and Tre'Davious White continues ramp up
In Week 13 against the Patriots, the Bills made the decision to start veteran Xavier Rhodes at cornerback and have first round rookie Kaiir Elam as inactive. Elam, who had missed Week 10 and 11 due to an ankle injury, returned on Thanksgiving against the Lions and played 21 snaps.
But Elam was a healthy inactive a week later against the Patriots and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier gave insight on what went into that decision, while also praising Rhodes' performance.
"Xavier did some good things for us in that ball game. We traced it back to Dane (Jackson), who had been sick during the week, really only got one day of work that Wednesday or Tuesday," Frazier shared. "And so we were really concerned about his strength and how long he could last in the ballgame. We decided to give Xavier that start because he had pretty much gotten those reps in practice."
Frazier also noted that the need on special teams also played a role in the decision.
"We would have liked to have had Kaiir available, but because of the numbers, it really didn't work out that way," Frazier said. "That doesn't mean that Kaiir is going to be out of the rotation. It just so happened for that ballgame, that was an opportunity to take a look at Xavier, and we wanted to take advantage of that."
Another player in the secondary to note, CB Tre'Davious White played in 61% of the team's defensive plays (33 out of 54). It was another step in the right direction for White who increased his workload up from 16 snaps on Thanksgiving.
"We were really encouraged by his play," Frazier said. "The fact that he was able to play an extended number of snaps compared to what he had gotten the week before was really good for us and really bodes well for the future."
Cook & Hines tandem provide new look
The Bills flashed an element to their offense last week at New England that they hadn't shown all season: Formations using both RB James Cook and RB Nyheim Hines together. According to TruMedia, Cook and Hines shared the field for 12 of Buffalo's 75 offensive plays (16%).
It's a component to the offense that Bills OC Ken Dorsey felt worked well against the Pats.
"I think they were effective for us. I mean, obviously, not all were 'good plays' for us. Some we had some negatives; some we didn't execute well enough," Dorsey said. "But I think anytime you can create issues for a defense by personnel groupings and having good players on the field, like those two guys, helps you."
As for Cook, his usage continues to spike in recent weeks and he set career-bests in several categories on Thursday night. The rookie had his highest snap share (43%), most touches (20) and highest yardage total (105) of the year.
Though Devin Singletary had his lowest snap share of the season (44%), he made the most out of his touches, earning 51 yards on the ground on 13 carries and added a touchdown in the 4th quarter. Singletary has four TDs on the ground in the last four games as Buffalo's rushing attack keeps improving heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
Allen's "special play"
It seems like every week there's at least one play Josh Allen has that makes you go 'Wow!' and Thursday in New England was no exception.
Allen had a spectacular 12-yard TD throw to Gabe Davis in the second quarter where he scrambled to the right, evaded defenders along the sideline without stepping out of bounds and threw across his body to hit Davis in the end zone. The star QB has made those jaw-dropping plays look routine over the last few years, but there's an art form to it that can few can replicate.
"Just a special play by him by extending it, and obviously breaking a tackle there in the backfield and knowing where he's at on the field and not running out of bounds," Dorsey said.
The Bills OC said all of the intricacies leading up to the throw, avoiding a sack, not stepping out of bounds, knowing where the open window in the end zone is to throw to, shouldn't be overlooked.
"Those are things that sometimes get lost in the fold," Dorsey said. "Just that awareness was big by him and then making sure it's a calculated decision."