September 06, 2003
Dynamics Changed After Milloy Signing
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Honk if you think Drew Bledsoe has suddenly become an afterthought.
Hah. Ever heard of the term "JAG"? And we aren't talking about "judge advocate general". Bill Parcells uses that term to describe ordinary ball players. It stands for "just another guy". How about a new term created just for Bledsoe? We'll call him a "JAQ" -- just another quarterback.
Each of the last two Bills games centered around their new quarterback, the former franchise anchor for the Patriots. Despite some cross-eyed looks after trading His Drewness to a division rival, Bill Belichick has since looked like a goldang genius. The Patriots are 2-0 against Bledsoe since his arrival in Buffalo, and in each game the Patriots have been able to totally dominate Bledsoe, much the same way when Belichick was DC of the NYJ under Parcells. In the second meeting last December 6th at Foxborough, for example, Bledsoe threw four interceptions.
This year, the attaboys might be fewer in number, and Bledsoe will not be the center of attention. It will be a totally different feel, different mindset, different everything.
Most everyone assumes, however arrogant it may be, that Belichick simply knows how to handle Bledsoe, and that the former Patriot gunslinger won't be a factor. What remains to be seen is how Belichick handles things with a new ex-Patriot legend on the other side. Most reports say that Lawyer Milloy's playing time Sunday will be greatly limited, as he can learn the Bills system only so fast. What will be closely scrutinized is what knowledge of the Patriots he brings to the Bills which can help Bledsoe better solve a Belichick defense, and which can also help shut down Tom Brady and the Patriot offense.
There are several schools of thought as to what a new player brings to his new team when he goes up against his old one. This situation is rather unique, given that it is so recent and that his first game happens to be against the team he came from. What has been debated is how much inside information Milloy can give his new team, and what adjustments Belichick has made to counter or negate Milloy's dope.
One could also take a step back and wonder if anything related to Milloy really matters. These are division rivals who know each other really well. The Bills added Takeo Spikes and Sam Adams and subtracted Peerless Price. Willis McGahee is still a long way from any NFL action. You know that Bledsoe will be throwing to Eric Moulds and Josh Reed. You know that Travis Henry will be the backfield threat. Without Milloy actually out there, you basically have the same Bills secondary to throw against, and five fleet Patriot receivers ready to take aim at two pretty good corners (Antoine Winfield, Nate Clements) and two ordinary safeties (Coy Wire, Pierson Prioleau).
So, what, if anything, can you glean from this matchup which is greatly affected by the Milloy acquisition?
As has been stated, the Patriots could not have picked a worse time to let Milloy go, and the fact that he went to a division rival makes it really putrid. The Patriots are still reeling over the loss of a captain, one of the spiritual leaders of the team.
That said, it really can be stated that the only way Milloy affects the outcome of this game is if he plays. And if he does, don't bet against the fact that it might favor the Patriots in the long run. This was one postulation which came about just after Milloy's release, that the Patriots could exploit Milloy better than he could exploit them.
If Matt Light can win his battle with Aaron Schobel (the Bills' sack leader in 2002) and give Brady the time to throw, that will turn out to be the key matchup of the game instead of Milloy versus Antowain Smith or Milloy versus the wide receivers. What that will do is enable Brady to find his band of rugrats (read: wide receivers), one of whom should manage to get open if he draws single coverage from a safety.
And, as previously mentioned in this column, if that safety is Milloy, a definite advantage swings to the Patriots. Milloy is a weak pass defender who will not be able to contain or stay with guys like Deion Branch or David Patten. All Brady has to do is find the favorable matchup if given time to do so. Charlie Weis might also want to avoid crossing and slant routes which might draw a crunching hit from Milloy.
This will likely mean a quiet day for Smith and Kevin Faulk, but this may turn out to be one of those games where the Patriots simply don't need to run to win. Smith may find slim pickings against Adams, Pat Williams and London Fletcher unless the other four Patriot offensive linemen find some energy and power surge. Whatever the case, if Brady can make hay through the air and the Bills cannot stop it, that's simply how the game will go.
The addition of Rosevelt Colvin and former Bill Ted Washington will almost guarantee a shaky day for Bledsoe. Washington will help take away the running game, and Colvin and Mike Vrabel should find their way to the pocket pretty well. Jonas Jennings, the Bills' left guard, will have all he can handle with both Colvin and Richard Seymour coming at him. The matchup between behemoth right tackle Mike Williams and Vrabel should be another fun one to watch.
Face it, if Colvin, Seymour and Vrabel can get to Bledsoe with regularity, and if Washington and Ted Johnson neutralize Henry, what can Bledsoe possibly do to counteract this? Scramble? Hit checkdowns? It will be interesting to watch if the defense clicks the way everyone thinks they will.
So, in the end, what are we all complaining about? We miss Milloy and his leadership and we want him back. Psychologically, the Patriots are down. Everything else favors the Patriots, even if Milloy is out there in a home navy blue uniform.
Football is a cruel business. Belichick knows how to win, and his players need to attach themselves to winning and not to Belichick. Trying to form an emotional bond with Belichick is folly. You play for Belichick because you want to win, not because you want him to be like a father to you. If players can somehow get this through their heads, then moments like the releasing of Milloy won't seem like a death in the family.
The mourning period is over. It's time to think about beating the tar out of Milloy, Bledsoe and anything Buffalo.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that, when the whistle blows, every member of the Patriots will look at Milloy and think "enemy", and all will be okay.
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