Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay against the Patriots tackles,( specifically right tackle Nick Kaczur)
We predicted this to be the key. In all reality this was an important matchup, but not nearly as important as slowing down Randy Moss and the rest of the Patriots receivers.
The Bills attempted to get pressure on Tim Brady using various fronts and formations on defense. Sometimes they blitzed, sometimes they just used four down linemen to try to force things to happen. Dick Jauron probably said it best in his postgame press conference. "They did a lot of good things in protection," Jauron noted of the Bills inability to pressure Brady. "Without looking at the tape I won't say we didn't execute exactly like we were supposed to, but they did have time to throw it." When the Patriots had third and long, the Bills tried to use just a teo man front while dropping nine into coverage. As Jauron noted, the lack of pressure killed them. "We talked about it and thought it was a good idea and it ends up it wasn't a good idea," Jauron admitted.
The problem for Buffalo was that with more time Brady was not only able to look for his primary receiver but he was able to wait on his checkdowns. Despite the Bills finding ways to cover Moss for stretches of the game, the lack of pressure allowed Brady to just hold on to the ball until Moss, Welker, Watson or others were able to get open.
Onto the specific keys:
1. No Bonehead Plays - Count on J.P. Losman to make a mistake or two during the game. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Losman dropped back, felt the pressure and tossed the ball to where Josh Reed was supposed to be. Instead the ball webnt straight into the grasp of Patriots defender Randall Gay instead. Apparently Reed and Losman were not on the same page, much to the delight of Gay who netted his third INT of the year. The turnover gave New England prime field position and they scored almost immediately. It was the beginning of the end. Normally you'd like your quarterback to have that kind of mistake further downfield or not at a critical juncture of the game. The Bills still had plenty of time to recover, but Losman's play didn't help.
2. Offensive Line Must Do Their Job - Again, another hit and miss proposition. The Bills line gave Losman time to throw, or at least enough time to get something to happen in their third possession when Buffalo drove 82 yards for a touchdown to cut the Patriots lead in half in the first quarter. But trouble surfaced on the team's very first possession. A complete pass to Lee Evans for 16 yards then a loss of nine when Adalius Thomas sacked Losman. A Screen play for 6 yards, then a bad pass by Losman for the Interception. The Second possession was just as bad, with a 2-yard run, a -3 yard loss on a run and another sack of Losman for 0 yards. The line gave Losman time to throw, but Losman wasn't able to find people downfield, but the line wasn't able to open holes for the running game so Losman was forced to throw which is a bad thing for Buffalo.
3. Prevent The Big Play - this was the thing that killed Buffalo. The Interception deep in enemy territory and a sieve of a run defense allowed New England to score in 2 plays on the Patriots first drive. A 43-yard bomb from Brady to Randy Moss on New England's second possession put Buffalo behind by 14 points and in a heap of trouble midway through the first quarter. When Buffalo tried to take away the long ball, the Patriots marched down the field on small hits augmented by a 31-yard pass hookup to Jabar Gaffney down the deep middle. 5 plays later it was 21-7 New England ad the rout was on.
Buffalo Bills quarterback J. P. Losman (7) is sacked by New England Patriots' Ty Warren (94) and Adalius Thomas (96) during the second quarter of their NFL football game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
1. Keep Lee Evans In Check - Check. Evans finished the night as the Bills leading receiver with 4 catches for 40 yards, all in spurts. Even when Evans got the ball, the Patriots were quick to get to him to prevent the big play. Losman tried to hit Evans 7 times, throughout the game. His four receptions were under 20 yards each, he hit Evans for a deep middle pass on third down on a play that was challenged and reversed (ball bounced off ground). Two others went uncaught but only one of those was a deep pass attempt (over 10 yards). When Evans did get the ball it was usually on an out route with little room for him to run after the catch.
2. Get Pressure on Losman - The first three series proved that New England could get pressure on Losman with just a four-man rush. Although the Patriots were up 14-0 and getting pressure with their base defense, New England opted to blitz on Buffalo's third possession. Losman launched a 47-yard bomb to Roscoe Parrish who outlept Ellis Hobbs on an underthown pass to score. Ironically it was pressure earlier on Losman that showed how athletic the Buffalo signal caller can be. Jarvis Green rushed past his blocker to slap the ball out of Losman's hands, as it bounced around the Patriots gave chase to Losman who tracked the abll, picked it up and heaved it downfield to a leaping Michael Gaines for a critical first down. It turned disaster for Buffalo into a big play. It was one of the few Losman was able to make all night.
3. Special Teams Needs To Be Solid - Special teams kick coverage was excellent by the Patriots. They managed to hold a dangerous return team featuring Terrence McGee to under a 20-yard per return average. How big was that? When you consider McGee ranks first overall among active kick returners with a 27.2 avg. for his career (Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs is second with 26.5) and second overall in kickoff returns for a touchdown (5 overall) it's a pretty big deal. Evans ranks fifth in the league this year with a 28. 2 avg. and averaged over 30 yards per kick against New England in 2006.
The Patriots punt return coverage team had little to worry about as the team's first punt came on their last possession and resulted in a touchback. Had they needed to punt, the Patriots faced Roscoe Parrish who leads the league with a 19.4 yard avg. per return. In comparison Devin Hester ranks second with a 15.9 avg.
For the Patriots return unit, the stats were much less impressive. New England managed to return one punt for four yards, and 3 kickoffs for 47 yards (15.7 avg.) well below their season numbers. New England's starting field position on kickoff returns was third best in the NFL entering the game, with drives beginning at their own 32 yard line. The Patriots started their drives just past the 26 yard line after kickoff returns on Sunday.
Special teams based on the stats was a relative non-factor when the Patriots were receiving, and a solid outing when the Bills had to receive.