By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
October 31, 2002

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FOXBORO, MA -- In probably one of the most anticipated match-ups since the trade was announced, the Patriots (3-4) are now poised to face former New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe in an AFC East divisional game this Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (5-3) at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

But forget about all the hype that surrounds this game.  New England currently sits at 3-4 after dropping their last four games following a 3-0 start, and now find themselves in a game they can't afford to lose.

Regardless of who the opposing quarterback is.

Last 4 Games
Date Opponent Score
10/27
Broncos
24-16
10/13
Packers
10-28
10/6
Dolphins
13-26
9/29
Chargers
14-21
Scouting Report: Buffalo
Zip's Take: Pats at Bills
While the majority of talk this week has been about current Pats QB Tom Brady vs. Bledsoe (again) and whether or not the trade was a good decision by Pats head coach Bill Belichick back in April, the biggest problem that the Patriots face isn't this now infamous trade, it's the fact they are on the verge of putting themselves further out of playoff contention with over a month of football left to be played.

With one less Wild Card spot this season, the need for a victory is now that much more important.

3rd Down Rec Leaders
PlayerRecYdsTD
Branch, Deion WR
12
153
2
Brown, Troy WR
11
138
0
Patten, David WR
7
128
1
In 1994, the Patriots rebounded from a four-game losing streak to win their last seven games of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs. Last season they were 3-4 before finishing the season by winning 8 out of their final 9 games.  Both of those clubs were heading in different directions however, with New England's current losing streak showing no immediate signs of ending.  They are on the verge of losing their fifth in a row, something they haven't done since 1995.

It's time to turn it around, and quarterback Tom Brady says it needs to happen this weekend.

"Any time you lose four straight your looking for something positive to build on," said Brady earlier this week.  "It's going to be a dogfight [against Buffalo], and we need to go out there and win."

It's been just that the past five games, with four of those last five games being decided in overtime.  In last year's first match-up the Patriots won 21-11, but they were up by just three points in the final minute of play when Antowain Smith put the game away with a 42-yard touchdown run.

1st Quarter Rec Leaders
PlayerRecYdsTD
Brown, Troy WR
12
117
0
Branch, Deion WR
12
111
0
Fauria, Christian TE
5
36
2
The real drama last year came in their second meeting, this time in Buffalo when New England escaped with a 12-9 overtime victory against a 2-10 Bills team that played them extremely tough throughout the game.  They led New England 9-6 late in the game, until the Patriots drove for a fourth quarter, game-tying score. Then, in overtime, the Patriots were the beneficiaries of a dead ball rule which ended up being the difference in the football game.  Brady completed a pass along the sideline to wideout David Patten, who was hit hard by Bills safety Keion Carpenter. Patten was knocked unconscious on the play and fumbled the football. While his head lay out of bounds, his feet were touching the ball, and the Bills recovered and returned downfield.  But after reviewing the play the officials ruled the ball was dead by virtue of the fact it was touching an unconscious and out of bounds Patten.  One play later Antowain Smith raced 38 yards to the 3-yard line which set up Adam Vinatieri's game winning field goal.

In those two victories last season Drew Bledsoe was a New England Patriot.  This time around he's a Buffalo Bill and a quarterback who has thrown for 2500-yards and 16-touchdowns.  Wide receivers Eric Moulds and Peerless Price are both in the middle of All-Pro caliber seasons, combining for 11 of those touchdowns and 1525 of Bledsoe's passing yards.

"The passing game is good and it's efficient," said Belichick on Thursday. "Drew's using all his receivers, his tight ends, his backs, the wide outs, and he's making plays scrambling, stepping up in the pocket, hitting big plays down the field."

Those big plays came last week against Detroit, with Bledsoe connecting with Eric Moulds for 42-yards to set up a 5-yard run by Travis Henry, and then later connecting with Peerless Price from 59-yards out for a touchdown.  The Bills have a potentially deadly offense which also includes runningback Travis Henry who's only problem has been his inability to hold onto the football, losing the ball on five of his six times he's fumbled this season. Henry has been effective this season, rushing for 695-yards on 151-carries this season, including 9-touchdowns.  He's also been used out of the backfield, catching 24-balls for 178-yards including a 26-yard touchdown.

Factor in tight end Jay Riemersma and fullback Larry Centers and receiver Josh Reed, and Bledsoe has enough weapons to be dangerous against a Patriots defense that played better last week against Denver but is still trying to find themselves.

Now the question will be can Bill Belichick continue his success against Bledsoe which is something he'd done so well during his time with the New York Jets.

"I think that's a little bit of a misnomer," said Belichick when asked why he's been so successful against Bledsoe in the past.  "He's certainly made plenty of good plays against teams that I've coached, and he's won some and we've won some."

"He's a good player, he's going to make plays against everybody, and hopefully we can make a few too."

INJURY REPORT
 
QUESTIONABLE
TE Daniel Graham (Shoulder)
LB Larry Izzo (Leg)
DE Anthony Pleasant (Shoulder)
C Greg Ruegamer (Foot)
CB Otis Smith (Arm)

NOTES ON INJURIES

Otis Smith apparently suffered an arm injury last weekend against Denver and may not play in Sunday's game.  In the event Smith can't go Terrell Buckley may get the call in his place. "If Otis weren't able to play, then the other corners would," said Belichick on Thursday. "Terrell [Buckely], Ben [Kelly] , and Jimmy [Hitchcock], Antwoine [Womack].  Leonard Myers is practicing, that could be another option, we would have to activate him and so forth, but it's a possibility."

OTHER TIDBITS
 

  • New England is currently ranked 2nd in the league in pass defense.
  • Bills RB Travis Henry is currently 2nd in the league with 10 TD's.
  • The Patriots are 7-1 in their last eight games against AFC East opponents.
  • New England RB Antowain Smith hasn't had a 100-yard rushing performance since December 22nd of last season.

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