Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Box_O_Rocks, Oct 20, 2006.
The New England Patriots again have taken control of the AFC East. They just have not been very dominant in doing so.
New England looks to improve to 4-0 against divisional opponents when it returns from its bye week to face the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Patriots (4-1) have moved into position to win a fourth consecutive division title and fifth in six years, leading the New York Jets by 1 1/2 games and third-place Buffalo (2-4) by two games. New England already has defeated each of its division rivals once, but those three wins were by an average of only 6.3 points.
The latest of those victories was a 20-10 win over the last-place Miami Dolphins on Oct. 8. The Patriots, though, had only 213 yards of total offense, and could not take control of the game until Tom Brady's touchdown pass to Heath Evans with 9:47 to play gave them a 10-point lead.
Still, New England can clinch a winning record within the AFC East if it beats the Bills on Sunday.
"You can't ignore it," Patriots linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said. "We had the opportunity to play three of the teams in our division and we've won those three games. Well, OK. The playoffs don't start tomorrow. If they did, then yeah, we'd be in great position, but they don't."
Colvin and the rest of the defense have been largely responsible for New England's strong start. The Patriots have allowed seven touchdowns in five games, have not given up more than 17 points in a game this season and have held three opponents to fewer than 300 yards of total offense.
Buffalo managed 240 yards of offense - only 74 in the second half - at New England in a 19-17 defeat on Sept. 10 to open the season. The Bills led 17-7 at halftime, but the Patriots held them scoreless after the break and rallied for the win.
"You can tell why they have won three of the last five Super Bowls," Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel said of the Patriots after that contest. "They know how to finish games."
Running backs Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon combined for 159 of New England's 183 rushing yards against the Bills. They have been a potent combination all season, with Maroney gaining 332 yards with three touchdowns, Dillon adding 281 yards and two scores, and both backs averaging more than four yards per carry.
The Patriots rushing offense is averaging 139 yards per game, sixth in the NFL.
Brady, meanwhile, continues to search for rhythm with a group of wide receivers in which veteran Troy Brown is the only holdover from last season. Brady completed 11 of 23 passes for 163 yards, a TD and an interception in the Sept. 10 meeting with Buffalo.
He had two touchdown passes in the victory over Miami heading into last week's bye, but also threw for a season-low 140 yards. Tight end Benjamin Watson leads all Patriots with only 16 receptions, while Brown's 15 catches are the most among the team's wideouts.
"We didn't play as well as an offense as we would have liked, but we're playing some good situational football," Brady said after beating the Dolphins. "We're finishing the games when we needed to, making critical plays."
Brady is 10-1 as a starter in his career against Buffalo - his most wins over any opponent. New England has won 11 of its last 12 meetings with the Bills, the lone exception a 31-0 loss at Ralph Wilson Stadium to open the 2003 season.
Buffalo alternated wins and losses in its first four games of the season, but has dropped consecutive road games to NFC North opponents behind a sputtering offense. After gaining a season-low 145 total yards in a 40-7 defeat at undefeated Chicago on Oct. 8, the Bills mustered 242 yards of offense last Sunday in a 20-17 loss to previously winless Detroit.
"It's disturbing," said receiver Peerless Price, who caught four passes for 27 yards against Detroit. "To me, personally, it's more disturbing than losing to Chicago. Chicago just beat us. This game, we felt like we had opportunities to make plays and win. And we didn't do it."
Turnovers have plagued the Bills. Buffalo has 11 giveaways in three losses, and has not turned the ball over in any of its three wins. Quarterback J.P. Losman has accounted four five of the team's eight turnovers - four interceptions and a fumble - in the last two games.
The defense also has struggled, particularly against the run. Buffalo gave up a season-high 397 yards of offense against the Lions, and has allowed a total of 291 rushing yards over the last two weeks.
"It's just that something's not there. Something's not quite fitting," defensive end Chris Kelsay said.
In an effort to bolster its defensive line, Buffalo acquired end Anthony Hargrove from the St. Louis Rams on Monday in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. Hargrove, whom St. Louis drafted in the third round in 2004, had 6 1/2 sacks last season.
"He's a young player so he's got a lot of future we hope in front of him, and a good one," said Bills coach Dick Jauron. "And we think he'll fit into a rotation for us."
Last year we were buried in over 10M in dead money on a much smaller cap.
Additionally we ended up with 16 season ending injuries (IR) and other costly injuries (Bruschi and Seymour).
So far this year, during the season we have no IR losses and our dead money has about 1/3 the effect of last year.
Basically what I'm saying is these factors are really helping us so far.
Buffalo is a tough defensive team.
They play us tough and they will be at home.
I expect a very hard fought victory.
Hopefully we continue to stay relatively healthy and watch other teams suffer attrition and injury losses.
With our schedule we have a good chance of earning a postseason bye.
What I want to see most is Colvin and Vrabel play better.
I'd like to see Jackson show up and catch a few balls.
Even now the latest import, Jabbar Gaffney, has less than ten days acquaintance with the QB and playbook.
What the Patriots offense is now, and what it will be in game 12, or entering the playoffs in game 17, is a quite, quite different thing. Now some don't beleive that is possible, but Bill Belichick teams have always adopted and added new players each year. Historically, they have not been as sharp in the early portions of the season as the newcomers took time to be assimilated. Some times the newcomerw workout, sometimes they don't. Look at Phifer, Hamilton, and Cox as guys who did, and Starks and Martin and Beisel as ones who didn't.
This year the ones who are/have succeeded are O'Calaghan, Gostkowski, and Seau; while Tebucky, Gardner and Mitchell were looking good before injury/IR. The only failure so far is Eric Warfield. All the WR imports are still in question, none is a certain failure, and Gabriel from indications, looks to be heading for success.
The weather should make this a low scoring affair, and the Patriots overall talent level should result in a Win. I think the miserable weather will hurt both passing games, but moreso the Bills; as the Pats don't rely on it as much at this point.
O'Callaghan and Gostkowski aren't FA imports.
So when BB said that play action is something one uses mainly for longer routes, you think he was just plain wrong?
If you throw 2 incomplete passes, you're guaranteed to have a third and long.
Maroney 4.3 Faulk 4.3 Dillon 4.1
If any of our RBs run for their average on 1st down, we have a second and less than 6.
Forget third down, what an advantage to have a pass/run option on second down.
It's a great time to go for the bomb or extrapolating have 3rd and 1 1/2 merely by having three "average" runs.
I think You're right this time NEM. The running game is the key to staying out of 3rd and longs.
This is an interesting analysis, more or less says " The Bills shouldn't bother showing up ! "
This does stand to be a hard fought game, but if we blow them out whilecoming off the bye, I think the burst in confidence could possibly carry us through the middle of the season as the passing game continues to improve, or struggles to improve, either way.
However, after watching the replay of Buffalo's game against Detriot, I see Dillon/Maroney combining for 35 carries. As much as we'd all like to see a big game from *any* of the receivers , Buffalo's main weakness is stopping the run and thats what we're going to exploit.
Nice find Brian - it almost makes you feel sorry for the Bills that they have such a supportive fan.
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