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New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 28: J.J. Taylor #42 of the New England Patriots carries the ball during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Patriots played a lot of the kids on Monday night, in some ways out of necessity. But it was also because the Buffalo Bills thoroughly beat them down for three quarters of football on their home turf.

Effectively waving the white flag well into the second half on Monday night, the Patriots punted from the Bills’ 47-yard line down 31-9. The Bills then drove down the field for another touchdown to make it 38-9. So when Jarrett Stidham entered the game on the ensuing Patriots drive, the white flag was certainly flapping in the bitter Foxboro wind by that point.

Still, it was noteworthy to see rookie tight end Devin Asiasi play nearly every snap on offense on Monday. He played 47 out of 50 offensive plays, ceding only two snaps to fellow rookie Dalton Keene. The two rooks also played one snap together, and the Pats ran one play out of “20” personnel (two RBs, three WRs, no TEs). Another rookie, undrafted running back J.J. Taylor, also checked in for mop-up duty.

Patriots’ Offensive Snap Counts vs Bills

The least surprising aspect of this week’s snap counts was that Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd played every snap. N’Keal Harry again struggled to come close to competing with those two for reps beyond being the third guy in three-receiver sets.

Jakobi Meyers: 50
Damiere Byrd: 50
Devin Asiasi: 47
N’Keal Harry: 30
Jakob Johnson: 20
Sony Michel: 19
James White: 16
J.J. Taylor: 16
Dalton Keene: 3

Taylor showed a little burst on the ground at times, most notably on a 28-yard scamper, totaling 38 yards on six carries. He came in to spell Michel, who had one of his more efficient rushing games this season (10 carries for 69 yards).

Unfortunately, Asiasi’s “emergence” as the starting tight end and near-every-down player didn’t translate to actual production. Cam Newton targeted him twice and he couldn’t make the catch either time. Both throws were off the mark, but Asiasi also appeared to get his hands on them.

Quarterback Snaps

Dec 28, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws a pass against the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton had yet another bad night throwing the ball in what’s been a string of struggles. (David Butler II-USA TODAY)

In this particular game, of course, you also need to take note of the quarterback snaps. Final count was 33 for Newton and 17 for Stidham. Unbelievably, Stidham somehow posted a worse passer rating (49.1) than Newton’s 57.9.

In arguably his strangest comment yet on the Patriots’ QB situation, Bill Belichick denied that he pulled Newton for Stidham because of a performance issue. He essentially admitted to the white flag – while continuing to essentially turn a blind eye to Newton’s monumental struggles throwing the ball.

“Cam did a good job for us,” Belichick said. “I mean, that wasn’t the problem. We were just not very competitive in the beginning.”

MORE: Bill Belichick’s phone-spike sums up 2020 Patriots

Newton has consistently been accountable for his own struggles and has never thrown anyone else under the bus. So he did the right thing and disagreed with Belichick’s assessment.

“I’ll put it like this: You don’t get pulled out just because you’re having a standup game,” Newton said. “I can tell you that. I’d be the first person to say that. There are some things I feel like I could have done better. But what my standard is for myself, it’s never to just blend in and just be the status quo. There’s some plays that need to have been made on my part that I feel like I could have done a better job at doing.”

There have been a lot of plays left on the field by the entire Patriots offense in 2020. But at least we got to see a little more of the kids, white flag or not.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.