ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- When New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady analyzed Sunday's 40-32 victory over the Buffalo Bills, he touched on the contributions of many. Among the group was a player who hasn't always been in that discussion.
"Aaron Dobson stepped up," he said.
Dobson, the 2013 second-round draft choice out of Marshall, turned in arguably the best game of his career in finishing with seven catches for 87 yards. The seven catches tied a career high (vs. Tampa, Sept. 22, 2013), while the 87 yards were his second highest total (130 vs. Pittsburgh, Nov. 3, 2013).
Developing a rapport with Brady has been a work in progress for the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Dobson.
As a rookie, he played in 12 games with nine starts, totaling 37 receptions for 519 yards and four touchdowns. But after undergoing surgery on his foot in the offseason leading into his second season, Dobson didn't build on that momentum in 2014. He finished last season with three catches for 38 yards, landing on injured reserve in early December (hamstring) as Brandon LaFell decisively took over his role as the top outside receiver.
With LaFell currently on the physically unable to perform list, Dobson has re-emerged.
Of the Patriots' 86 total offensive plays against the Bills, he was on for 70 of them, playing in the two-receiver set opposite Julian Edelman and naturally staying on in the three-receiver package.
His work was one of the things that stood out most in this week's snap-count analysis:
Total offensive plays: 86
Total defensive plays: 72
Julian Edelman 75
Aaron Dobson 70
Notes: Dobson played 57 snaps all last season, so he eclipsed that total in one game Sunday. In the opener against Pittsburgh, he had played 30 snaps and had one catch for nine yards. ...Amendola had just one catch, but it was a beauty -- a 29-yarder in the fourth quarter in which he ran a seam route and said he was mostly battling the sun as he made the leaping, diving grab.
C David Andrews 86
G Josh Kline 86
LT Nate Solder 78
LG Shaq Mason 57
OT Marcus Cannon 50
RT Sebastian Vollmer 49
RG Tre' Jackson 27
Notes: Andrews has played every snap through the first two games and held his ground. He played at a high level of competition in the SEC while at Georgia but said after the game, "Hostile environments are hostile environments, but [this is] a lot different level of competition." ...When Jackson entered the game for Mason, he was inserted at right guard and Kline flipped to the left side. ...Cannon, the top swing tackle, had a high total as part of a natural rotation and also because he filled in when Vollmer took an extended break with a finger injury.
Notes: When the Patriots scored three straight touchdowns to go ahead 21-7 in the first half, they ran 11 of their 12 plays over that stretch with two or more tight ends on the field. Gronkowski's 2-yard touchdown reception, for example, came out of the four-TE grouping.
Tom Brady 86
Notes: Brady's 59 pass attempts were the second highest of his career, behind only his 65 against San Francisco in the 2012 season.
Dion Lewis 73
Notes: The plan called for spreading the field and throwing, which meant it was a game for the top "passing back" to lead the way, and that is Lewis. He was often split out wide as a receiver. Cadet was active over James White, in part because he adds more value on special teams, serving as a gunner on the punt coverage unit.
Alan Branch 25
Malcom Brown 21
Notes: Grissom came on as an interior rusher in the dime. ...Brown, the first-round pick out of Texas, got pushed back on Karlos Williams' 2-yard touchdown run, but nicely held his ground on a tackle late in the first quarter on a 2-yard run late that same quarter.
Notes: Ninkovich and Jones worked through some initial struggles on the edge in the run game to have production games. Sheard's presence as a third man in the rotation is giving them a breather at times that they haven't had in recent years. ... Johnson was part of the dime package as an interior rusher and appeared to stay disciplined in his rush lane, a key assignment against a running quarterback such as Tyrod Taylor.
Jerod Mayo 16
Notes: The only time Hightower came off the field was in the dime package. ...Mayo played only in the base defense and is also part of the punt coverage team as he was earlier in his career.
Tarell Brown 53
Logan Ryan 50
Notes: Ryan bumped up from the No. 4 to No. 3 spot over Fletcher, which was a change from Week 1. ...Fletcher came on for Brown, the starter on the right side, for a stretch in the first half when Brown appeared to be working through something health-related.
Duron Harmon 22
Notes: With a focus more on defending the run game, Chung played more than Harmon. That flipped the script from the opening week against the Steelers, when the Patriots were mostly in sub packages and Harmon had more snaps than Chung.