Another bye week has passed and another masterful coaching performance by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. It is a well known fact that when the Patriots head coach has two weeks to prepare for an opponents offensive and defensive schemes he so very often comes out on top.
The game against the Buffalo Bills was no exception to that rule.
Maybe it was the brutal and grueling practice that the coach held on Thursday after a lackluster Wednesday practice after the bye.
"What I remember is Bill yelling and screaming at us, saying we can't have another crappy Wednesday the way we had it," recalled safety Rodney Harrison. "We had almost two practices in one the next day. That's what you have to have when there's a lack of focus and concentration."
When one might have looked at this game, they might have thought on paper it should be a blow out but, as we have seen time and time again, against an AFC East foe, the score was quite deceiving. A 28-6 final score was very misleading because the Buffalo defense actually showed up with tenacity only to be shown in the stat book with a total of four sacks on the usually elusive Tom Brady.
While the Bills defense was running around like madmen so were the boys in silver and blue. The Patriots defensive unit came to play right from the get-go in this game. I saw hard hits from all of the secondary players being lead by the recently named 'dirtiest defensive player', Rodney Harrison. What a difference he makes back there in the secondary. Those guys like Chad Scott and Asante Samuel were all over the place and when they hit you you knew it.
The defensive line was stellar again, shutting down the AFC's leading rusher, Willis McGahee to a dismal 59 yards with the longest carry for the day being an eight-yard scamper.
The secondary was hitting hard and shutting the offensive passing unit of the Bills down when they needed it most including a timely interception by Samuel to stop a key drive in the second quarter just after the two minute warning.
One must not forget though, when you look at the Buffalo Bills six games so far, you will find that they have scored above 17 points only once against the Jets. One must also not forget though, when they play the Patriots, they always bring their 'A' game lead by their aggressive and outspoken linebacker Takeo Spikes.
On the opening drive when the Patriots methodically drove down the field with calm and ease taking up 6:37 off the time clock while gaining 71 yards on 14 plays, you kind of got a sense of confidence emanating from both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. This was evident early at times on offense and throughout the game on defense.
In the infancy stages of this '06 season, when most have asked where the Patriots needed the most help, you would have heard nine times out of ten, the passing game. The common cry was that they had no receivers for Brady to throw to. I even heard many foolishly stating that they should have picked up the much-maligned Randy Moss. Hopefully today, those 'no name' receivers silenced some of their critics by catching two big touchdowns and catching most balls thrown their way including some key third downs.
It looked as if they were hitting their routes a little sharper and #12 looked like he is getting a little more comfortable with these guys. You could see it in his numbers. Brady threw for a 112.4 percentage for passer rating with two touchdowns and zero interceptions this week. Since passing for a 'non brady-esque' 82 percent rating in game one, he has increased each week, little by little. Even though when coach Belichick was asked about Brady's timing he answered, "We've been working on it all year. Some was good, some wasn't, but we'll keep working on it .We can do a better job but there has been improvement in every aspect of our game, and that's what we've got to keep building on." in his post game press conference.
Couple of standout moments:
Rookie running back, Laurence Maroney's 74-yard kickoff return. It didn't really seem as if he was going to catch the ball but the strong back caught it and almost broke it all the way down the field if not thwarted by a leg swiping tackle by the Bills. Tom Brady commented how important the return was in his post game press conference, "We had great field position all day, with Laurence returning that kick, we had a bunch of turnovers that really helped us. Anytime you get the ball on a short field like that you have to try to do things with it."
Asante Samuel's interception was his third in two games. During the off-season, the Patriots fans were adamant on trying to get Ty Law back in a Pats uniform but if you ask me, we have our stopper in Samuel.
Rodney Harrison, what else can you say? After coming off reconstructive knee surgery, this fearless leader of the defense proves time and time again if it weren't for Tedy Bruschi he would be the sure fan favorite for categories like presence and intensity. When he is out there, he causes everyone around him to play better and with more passion. He is the all time leader in sacks by a defensive back with a total of 28. He is a true leader and what a gem he is in New England. "This is certainly what we expected to see this week," said Harrison after the game. "Coming off a bye week, a lot of times you can have disappointment."
One last, very unappreciated number is, the 62-yard punt by Josh Miller late in the second quarter. This guy consistently boots the ball well driving the opponents deep into their territory. He kicked the ball for an average of 47.5 yards per punt for six attempts.
With the Patriots sporting a nice 5-1 record with a 4-0 AFC East record, they are going to have to put their helmets on straight and get themselves ready for the Monday night showdown versus the Minnesota Vikings who brought their record to 4-2 against the Seattle Seahawks today. If they can keep the momentum of what they showed today, they should give the Vikings a run for their money.
Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.