Point Counterpoint: Bills vs Patriots

<p>This week's matchup pits the New England Patriots against division rival the Buffalo Bills, Sunday 1:00pm EST at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Our staff have taken a look at the individual units of each team and given their take on what each team needs to do unit-by-unit in order to have a chance to emerge victorious in this week four matchup.</p>

Game: Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium
When: Sunday October 3, 2004, 1:00pm EST

Unit by Unit Matchup

From the Bills Perspective: by Mark Weiler   From the Patriots Perspective: by Jon Scott
Mark writes for the Bills Report, and has provided analysis on the matchups addressing the game from the Bills point of view.   Jon writes for the Patriots Insider, and has provided analysis on the game from the Patriots point of view.

When the Bills have the ball:


When the Patriots have the ball:

Last season the Bills faced only one team as well-rounded offensively as the Patriots are this season. That was the Chiefs who routed the Bills 38-5. The characteristics of that game were very similar to what the Bills have shown this season other than the fact that the Bills ran the ball well vs. the Chiefs. Whether or not they will do so vs. the Pats remains to be seen. But the early failures of the offensive line to pave the way for any sort of substantial rushing game leave the success of that in serious doubt.

Given that Belichick and company know Bledsoe better than the Bills own coaches do, it would stand to reason that the edge would go to the Patriots if the game falls into Bledsoes hands as a result of an early point deficit. Either way, and once again, the Bills will need both prongs of their offensive assault, passing as well as rushing, to be working efficiently if they are to have any chance of beating the Pats.

The Patriots figure to have their defense be the metaphorical swarm of bees that it usually is. The Bills will face a pass rush similar to yet likely even better than that which they faced in Oakland. The creativity of the Pats will be at the Ralph in spades. There is little reason for hope should this game come down to Bledsoe and the passing game. The Bills receivers are equally matched in talent and outmatched in experience when contrasted with the Pat defensive backs.

The Bills ability to run the ball behind a very suspect offensive line yet against a Patriot team that has hardly been efficient vs. the Colts in week one may be the defining matchup in this game. The Pats allowed 184 yards on 4.6 per carry vs. Edge and Rhodes yet held geriatric Emmitt Smith to only 31 yards on 2.4 per carry. Whether or not the Bills anemic rushing attack averaging 3.1 yards-per-carry can generate any game vs. this new defensive front featuring rookie Vince Wilfork and 35-year old Keith Traylor remains to be seen.

The Pats figure to confuse the easily confusable Bledsoe with a vast array of blitz packages that are effective even against the better quarterbacks in the league. So the question of the game will be whether this offense finally finds its groove against one of the better defensive planners and masterminds in the league. It will boil down to Mularkey and Clements offensive prowess vs. Belichick and Crennels defensive genius.


It is incumbent upon the New England Patriots to work a couple of angles against what is considered to be one of the better defenses in the NFL, the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots offense has had two fairly unappreciated defenses to matchup against in their first two showings, ( Week 1 the Indianapolis Colts, and Week 2 the Arizona Cardinals) and have had their way at critical times in the game against these defenses.

It looks like the Bills, who have given stiff competition to their previous two teams, both 10-13 losses (Week 1 against Jacksonville week 2 at Oakland), will make the Pats earn their yardage. No blown assignments over the center allowing the TE's Daniel Graham, and the WRs to get open 20 yards downfield.

When the Patriots line up against the aggressive Bills defense, they'll have to man up on their blocks, and make sure the OL can protect QB Tom Brady long enough for the receivers to get open. While this was not an issue against the Colts with their anemic pass rush and pass defense, it proved to be more difficult against the Cards better DL.

Communication will have to be pretty solid between Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weiss and Brady, so that they are both on the same page recognizing the different fronts and blitzes the Bills will bring.

With RB Corey Dillon expected to carry the load in the backfield this game, Expect to see a lot of more of Dillon in the first half if they are having success on first and second down running the ball.

Kevin Faulk will probably not be ready to carry the load on third down, as he recovers from a knee injury, so the Pats will likely get back into their spread offense on third and anything more than a yard.

With the David and David show (Patten and Givens) we've seen from this team since the preseason, and speedster Bethel Johnson, ready to stretch the field the Pats will likely continue to try to get Brady into a rhythm that he seems to have when mixing plays.

The Bills had some success against what it considered to be a lacking offense in Jacksonville, but they also had success against what many consider to be a decent offense in Oakland. The pats will definitely have to block better than they have been in order to keep their offense from stalling.

Expect Belichick and Weiss to place a lot more emphasis in going for the TD in the red zone than relying and an Adam Vinateri FG or 4 as they did previously.

When the Pats have the ball:


When the Bills Have the Ball:

This will be the first true test of the Bills defense. Until now, the Bills defensive unit has shone in the first two games of the season. Both offenses that the Bills have faced to date have been extremely one-dimensional however. The Jag offense featured only a viable rushing game, which was shut down in the absence of anything resembling a threat in the passing department, until the last drive that was when rookies and inexperienced young players took the Bills passing defense to task to win the game. The Raider offense featured a completely toothless rushing game featuring 32-year old Tyrone Wheatley who does not scare anyone and never has.

The Pats bring regenerate Corey Dillon and a passing attack that has given the Bills fits minus a decent rushing game let alone with one. The seeming inability of the Bills to generate a pass rush with only their front four will certainly help define this game. Giving Brady all day in the pocket is tantamount to giving a boxer a set of brass knuckles in a brawl.

Meanwhile, how well the Bills rushing defense holds up without being able to keep five, six, or seven men in the box at all times also remains to be seen. Regular readers of my columns realize well that the Bills failures against the better rushing teams last season are well documented. How they defend against Dillon while keeping a lid on Brady and the air game remains to be seen and will be a much better indicator as to how "playoff ready" this defense really is.


It will be interesting to see how much effort the Bills place on protecting Drew Bledsoe in this game, Vs changing all their play calling to rely on the running game. With the Patriots giving up a load of yardage to opposing runners, even when they were behind, it will be a challenge to see how they respond in the type of close game the Bills are used to.

The bye week comes at a point in the season too early for the coaching staff to do what they normally would and go scout college players. So instead, this staff has had an opportunity to study and game plan for key back-to-back division rivals, with the Bills being lucky enough to have to go first.

The Bills will likely try to protect Bledsoe by either bringing Max Protect schemes, or running the ball. It doesn't make a lot of sense to try a lot of draw or trap plays, when straight up run blocking seems to garner 4 or 5 yards a carry against this defense. A lot of inside run plays are likely to get called, as both rookie Vince Wilfork and veteran Keith Traylor have proven that they have quite a bit of work to do to fill departed run stopper Ted Washington's shoes.

The Bills will likely try to copy the Colts game plan to run, run, run, right down the Patriots throats until they prove they can stop it. With Travis Henry and promising young back Willest McGahee both of whom had good preseasons, in competition to show who's the man, figure that the Bills will try to get one of them (Henry) more carries early in the game to establish that run pattern.

The Pats will likely continue their excellent rotation of DL and LBs changing up looks in such a frequent fashion that whatever Bledsoe sees when he comes to the line, is unlikely to the actual defense the Patriots run that play.

With Bledsoe's and Belichicks history, expect this to go the Patriots way. Especially if the Pats build a lead.

Key Matchups:


Key Matchups:

Wilfork and Traylor vs. the Bills interior offensive linemen

The Bills defensive front four vs. the Patriot OL

Brady vs. the Bills secondary and linebackers

Daniel Graham vs. the Bills linebackers

Bledsoe vs. himself


The Patriots DL Vs the Bills running offense and Travis Henry

The Patriots Ability to pass protect against the Bills rush

Any of the Patriots WRs against the Bills deep coverage

Bledsoe vs. Belichick's schemes

Possible Turning Point of the Game:


Possible Turning Point of the Game:

If the Patriots end up going up and the Bills need to rely more on their passing game, expect this game to go from the frying pan into the fire.


If the Bills somehow find a way to keep the score close, expect it to be a long day for Wilfork and Traylor. Adam Vinatieri will likely be a key player if the Pats have to play it close.

Other Factors:


Other Factors:

Home field advantage: If the Patriots can score first and quickly, or capitalize off of early Bills offensive miscues, then the 12th man will be neutralized.

Special Teams: Lindell on one end of the spectrum, Moorman on the other!


Crowd noise. With the crowd into it, Brady will find it a little more difficult to be a good defense, by audibling into new plays at the line of scrimmage.

Special teams: The Pats have a new punter, and it shows. Unfortunately they also have new kick coverage units and hopefully it won't show.




If the Bills performances last season against comparable opposing offenses is used as the guide, then look for the Pats to score at least 27 points. While fans and media tout the "Bills solid D", the fact of the matter is that they have had trouble holding any decent offensive team to below 27.

Offensively, going back 16 games, the Bills simply can't score more than 10 points vs. decent defenses. Even then, as is the case this season, then only with the assistance of their D. Even if one or two things go wrong, the Pats are still an excellent defense led by the best defensive mind in the biz.

Score: Patriots 34, Bills 13


We don't like this part, but we predicted the Cards game to be close till the third quarter which it was, and we expected to need a key turnover to beat the Colts, which turns out they needed two.

This week, it's another tough challenge by a good defense, but we see the unbeaten streak by the Patriots extending for another week.

Score: Low.
Patriots 20, Bills 13

Analyst: Mark Weiler



Analyst: Jon Scott


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