October 31, 2002
Patriots at Bills: Forget The Hype
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
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.
With one less Wild Card spot this season, the need for a victory is now that much more important.
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.
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."
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."
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