By Mike DeVito
As a former player, I know from experience that you dream each year of being the team the New England Patriots are right now. Hall of Fame coach, Hall of Fame QB, multiple weapons on offense, a defense that is 4th in the league in points allowed, and a more than capable special teams unit. Not to mention a 6-1 record with a chance to create a lead so large in the AFC East, that they are almost uncatchable and a win in week #8 can make the division title a formality.
3 Keys to Defeating The Buffalo Bills
- STOP THE RUN:
Having played 4 years of my career under Rex Ryan I know running the football is something he highlights as a high priority in his offense. Currently the Bills are 2nd in the NFL in rushing, averaging 152 yards per game. The Pats will catch a break if LeSean McCoy (averaging 5 yards per carry) is limited or out, but the left side of the Bills offensive line (Wood, Incognito, and Glenn) can open up lanes that would allow a Jr. High running back to be productive.
In their last outing with the Bills, New England allowed more than 130 yards on the ground. Along with the confidence running the ball will provide the Bills offense, I would imagine the game plan to be similar to what the Steelers tried last week: possess the football. The less time Tom Brady has the ball in his hands the better chance Buffalo has to win this game. A major point of emphasis for the Patriots defense is going to be stopping the run.
- AWARENESS ON THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Rex understands that to beat Tom Brady you have to get pressure on him. And he isn’t going to just get in a 4-man front, mug up (the linebackers show up on the line of scrimmage to blitz, they don’t blitz from their normal alignments) the middle linebacker, and blitz him through the A-gap. Rex has some of the most complex blitz schemes from fire zones (burning a zone coverage to add an extra man to the rush) to simulated pressures to all out 0 blitzes. And with a playbook on defense that looks more like an encyclopedia, the Pats will have to be ready for defensive schemes that the Bills have developed just for them and that probably aren’t on any game tape.
How New England handles Rex’s blitz package will be a major indicator of how productive they are on Sunday. Ultimately, this comes down to the offensive line. This young group (under the leadership of coach Dante Scarnecchia) has been spectacular all year but they will probably face their biggest test this week. Not only does this offensive line have to deal with a really good defensive line, especially with Marcel Darius back in the line up, but Rex’s blitz package is going to force them to have to play smart football…really smart football. Starting with center David Andrews, the Pats line has to get the protection set, communicate with each other, and try to neutralize Buffalo’s attack.
- WIN GOING INTO THE BYE
This isn’t so much a key to the game as it is a key to continuing to have a productive season. One of the quickest ways to derail the success of any team is to lose before the bye week. Momentum is huge in the NFL. New England has it going at the speed of light in the right direction but a loss before the bye means an extra week to feel the pain of defeat. A loss before the bye has the feeling of back to back losses because you have to wait two weeks before you can get back out on the field and get things going in the right direction again. So not only does there need to be a heightened sense of urgency to get a victory and set themselves up as the clear favorites in the AFC, but New England has to get a win to avoid the bye week blues.
Mike DeVito (@MikeDeVito70) is a 9-year NFL veteran, playing with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. He is an alum of the University of Maine, color analyst for Black Bears football on TV and is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm-6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowmaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.