Patriots - Bills: Inside Look

The Buffalo Bills have weapons on offense, defense and special teams that could be keys to their success on Sunday. One of those, Terrence McGee can be a game changer against a Patriots unit that is susceptible to big plays. The Patriots have other concerns, including at linebacker where Chad Brown has not made the move inside well. Is Brown out of the picture now that Tedy Bruschi is back?

Patriots - Bills: Inside Look
By NFL Scout

Bills:

Terrence McGee needs just 22 yards to become the Bills' career kick return leader, and he's picked a good opponent to set the record against.

Last season, McGee had a 98-yard return for a touchdown against the New England Patriots in a 31-17 home loss, one of a team-record three TDs he scored last year.

McGee, who has been Buffalo's full-time return man for 1 1/2 seasons, has done in that short span what former Syracuse standout Keith Moody needed four years to do: top 2,100 yards.

Moody set the team record with 2,168 yards from 1976-79.

McGee has 2,147, which includes a single-season record 1,370 last year. He has 617 yards on 18 returns this season and his 34.3 average leads the NFL.

"I'm not thinking about it, really," McGee said of the record. "It'd be nice to break the record - it's within reach and there's a bunch of games left. It'd be nice, but I'm not really focused on that."

The Patriots are focused on stopping McGee, along with whoever returns punts for Buffalo. Last year, Jonathan Smith scored on a 70-yard punt return in Buffalo's 29-6 loss at New England. The Patriots rank 30th in punt coverage this year.

"He's killed us every time we've played him, both returning and in making plays defensively, too. He's real good," New England coach Bill Belichick said of McGee. "He's got real good speed, he's got great vision, quickness, he makes a lot of people miss. The run he had against the Jets, the run he had against New Orleans before the half. When you make 10 guys miss tackles on one run, it looked like Gale Sayers. You just don't see many guys do that."

Patriots:

Linebacker Chad Brown could be on the move - down the depth chart or off to the side.

With inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi expected to make his 2005 debut against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night, Brown might be out of a starting job. He acknowledged as much this week, describing himself as Bruschi's backup.

Should outside linebacker Mike Vrabel slide inside - which he did in the Patriots' last game before the bye week - the Patriots would be able to rotate Bruschi, who is coming back from an off-season stroke, Vrabel and Monty Beisel at the two inside spots. That, in turn, could free up Brown to move outside and fill Vrabel's role in a three-man rotation with Rosevelt Colvin and Willie McGinest.

"Chad has had some versatility throughout his career," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I'm sure he would be able to do that."

Relocating to the outside might be a boost for Brown, a natural pass rusher who has struggled at times inside since signing with the Patriots as a free agent in the off-season.

"Nothing's guaranteed in life or football," Brown, 35, said. "How much Tedy plays, how Tedy plays, all those kinds of things will have some effect on me. But I have no idea what they would be. All year long I've played inside linebacker, but I've been asked to know all the linebacker spots. If (a change in his role) will happen, I have no idea."

Brown has 78 career sacks, tops among active NFL linebackers. But he hasn't gotten any this season as his pass-rushing duties have been limited.

"When I came here, I didn't come here for personal glory," said Brown, a three-time Pro Bowler (1996, 1998, 1999). "Not to say that I'm going to the Hall of Fame, but I've achieved some personal success. I came here to be a part of a team and to fill whatever role it is and to win games. I play special teams. I haven't done that in quite a long time. So, there's no ego involved. If you want me to bang on guards, I will bang on guards. If you give me the opportunity to rush the quarterback, I would love that."

--The Patriots placed CB Tyrone Poole on injured reserve Thursday, ending his season prematurely for the second straight year. Poole hadn't played since hurting his ankle in Week 1. He recently had declared himself ready to play but never was activated. Poole showed up in the locker room on crutches last week but ditched them in time to participate in practice on Monday and Wednesday.

Poole, 33, missed 11 games last season with a knee injury that landed him on IR in December. The move frees up a roster spot that the team could use to activate Bruschi off the physically unable to perform list.

 

 


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