The New England Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. in Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park. Both teams enter at 1-0 and the upstart Bills are looking to get a great start of the season by knocking off both teams from the AFC Championship Game last season in successive weeks.
Rex Ryan has the Bills’ fanbase and players fired up for the possibilities of the 2015 season. They have one of the top defensive units in the league and have added some improved weapons on offense. Now they have to put it together to end the Buffalo long playoff-less drought.
In Thursday’s “Razor’s Edge” article, we broke down the key matchups between the team’s offense, defense and special teams. Now we’ll give you three keys to the game from a Patriots perspective to coming away with a win on Sunday.
Key #1: Start Early Offensively – This one sounds simplistic but it is the best way to keep the crowd from becoming and staying a factor throughout the game. If Tom Brady and the Patriots offense can get into a rhythm and get some points on the board early, it will quiet the crowd to a degree and put the pressure on Buffalo’s offense.
The Bills will be looking to disrupt Brady’s timing and make him hold onto the ball, the opposite of last week’s game plan against Andrew Luck, and then bring that pass rush to bear. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will be under pressure to break free of jams at the line and get open quickly. That will allow Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler to attack the seams and pressure the safeties and linebackers.
The Patriots will look to avoid getting into those obvious passing situations, the second or third down and long yardage where Ryan loves to send pressure. The running game with LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis will have to avoid losing yardage and find some quick holes to keep the defense off-balance.
If they do this, and put some points on the board, then the pressure will be on Tyrod Taylor to be forced to keep up. Everything went his way in the opener, with the Bills stifling the Colts offense and Buffalo jumping out to big, comfortable lead. New England will want to take that comfort level away with Brady and Co.
Key #2: Take Away the Run and Force the Bills to Throw – Taylor will be making just his second start in the NFL. The Bills and Ryan always want to run the ball first and then open up play action passing and hit some big plays down the field with Percy Harvin and Sammie Watkins. So slowing down LeSean McCoy and Taylor from running becomes a big point of emphasis.
McCoy has been slowed by a balky hamstring, but I would expect him to play on Sunday. Taylor is a mobile QB and with OC Greg Roman coming from the Niners, expect a similar attack that the Patriots saw a few years ago in Foxboro (and had trouble stopping), this week.
Against Pittsburgh, the Pats went with a light front in an attempt to stop the passing game of Ben Roethlisberger. This week look for a lot more of a base defense with the big bodies, (Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch and Malcom Brown) inside. Jerod Mayo should see more playing time this week. Pat Chung will see more playing time as they’ll slide him up in the box to help combat the run.
The onus this week will be on the defensive ends, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard to keep Taylor in front of them and to stay in their lanes. One area that the Patriots have been gashed on in the past is when their DEs lose the edge and allow QBs to scramble and gain big yardage.
Keeping Taylor in the pocket will also force him to beat you through the air, which is what the team should be looking to do. The Bills have some nice weapons in the passing game but Taylor’s inexperience could be used against him by Bill Belichick and force him into making mistakes.
Key #3: Win the Turnover Battle – In these tight divisional games, a turnover or two can easily turn the tide and momentum in your favor, (see KC Thursday night). The last thing Brady and Co. need is to drive the ball down the field into the red zone and come away empty.
The Patriots under Belichick have traditionally done extremely well when winning the turnover battle. Their playoff record is an astounding 19-1 when the opponent turns the ball over more and the team was 8-1 in 2014 including the playoffs when winning the turnover battle.
This is an area where Bill Belichick coached teams have always done well in, and on the road in a loud stadium, nothing will quiet the noise quicker than having the home team turnover the ball.
If the Patriots can follow these three keys on Sunday afternoon, there is a very good chance they come home from Buffalo with a 2-0 record. As we stated in our matchup piece from Thursday morning, we’re going with a Patriots 27-21 win.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Preseason 2015 NFL Season Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Chandler Jones Danny Amendola Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount LeSean McCoy Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Percy Harvin Rex Ryan Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Sammie Watkins Tom Brady Tyrod Taylor