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Zip's Bills-Pats PreviewFw: Pats-Bills Preview

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  • RandyZ. Pierce
    http://www.patriotzip.com/Patriots/preview05.htm#bills A New Season Begins with Paying the Bills Game Notes: The Patriots are even of record at 3-3 which oddly
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29, 2005
       
       
       
      A New Season Begins with Paying the Bills
       
      Game Notes:
       
      The Patriots are even of record at 3-3 which oddly has them in first place in a weak performing AFC-East Division. Their opponents, The Buffalo Bills, had
      the chance to leap into first place during New England’s bye week just passed but were instead grossly over-matched by the Oakland Raiders 38-17. This
      of course only serves to make the game that much more important for Buffalo. Division matches in general and this one most certainly require little additional
      motivation. These teams have a long history and the recent portion has been well laden with close battles. New England still has the upper hand on the
      series with a 49-40-1 edge marking their most victories against any single opponent.
       
      As always past history will be of lesser impact than current performance. Both teams are aware that first place in the Division earns a playoff spot and
      it is a game which places the victor in that first place position with an advantage over the rest of the teams. Former Patriot Lawyer Milloy would like
      little more than to continue the one-game home losing streak for New England in their home stadium. New England, of course, has a return to winning burning
      in their minds and hearts as they lost their last home game badly (San Diego) as well as their last game before the bye (Denver). Along with the Division
      lead they have the return of inspirational leader Tedy Bruschi as a highly likely spark to a defense which has earned a rather poor run of statistics thus
      far this season. There is no doubt the return of Seymour and Bruschi could greatly bolster the new stretch run for New England which has six division games
      in the ten remaining contests. Those returns could greatly bolster a maligned secondary which would be enhanced significantly by the improvements to the
      front seven performance. These are, however, only possibilities as nothing has been confirmed on whom is returning and whom is not yet ready. The fact
      is the bye week enabled some health improvements, rest and refocus from the coaching staff. If New England is going to begin anew with the start of this
      game they must be prepared to improve their offensive consistency and defensive play. They must return to their league low allowing of big plays, their
      league leading red zone defense which has toggled completely and most of all they must earn a win and begin building the team which will represent their
      year’s performance. Is it 2002 or 2001? Neither! It is 2005 and there is still enough talent and intelligence to make for a top notch game and season but
      it must begin with performances significantly improved from the first six games!
       
      Opponent Review:
       
      The Buffalo Bills want to run the ball and manage it fairly well. They want to stop the run and have thus far failed miserably. Like New England, they are
      still trying to solve too many problems which is why their record is well below where they would prefer at this point in the season. Their troubles stopping
      the run begin with the pivotal change to their defensive line. The loss of Pat Williams means that while behemoth Sam Adams anchors the middle of the line,
      the unit has staged down and is vulnerable. London Fletcher still anchors the run defense but now a level deeper than when the twin mounds roamed the middle
      of the defensive line. Lawyer Milloy at Strong Safety is a fourth linebacker which credits his run support while simultaneously questioning his pass defense.
      Pass defense is not their primary problem though as their two young corners have performed well with Terrance McGee especially improving this season. Still
      the loss of Takeo Spikes and the reduction of size on the line have left an undersized London Fletcher and the Bills Secondary with too much work tackling
      and Buffalo at a defensive disadvantage.
       
      Offensively the Bills experimented with a young QB and with a less than 50% completion rate Losman was replaced by the better than 70% completion rate of
      Holcomb. Still the passing game is below expectations and particularly ineffective at longer plays. Of particularly interest is the only four passing plays
      longer than 20 yards. Buffalo keeps seven wide receivers on their roster but Moulds, Reed and Evans have failed to make significant threat deep. Still
      the Veteran presence and experience of Holcomb has the offense more hopeful that if given the same rushing attack as helped them earn a pair of divisional
      victories over Miami and New York, will give them a sufficiently balanced and potent attack to leap into the Division lead.
       
      On special teams Moormon remains an excellent field position weapon with a 46 yard average. Still the true Special Team weapon is McGee whom leads the league
      with his 34.6 return average and constant threat to return one for a game changing score. Keeping with their top notch special teams work, Kicker Rian
      Lindell has succeeded on 14 of 15 attempts. This third and often forgotten phase of the game is an important facet in Buffalo’s threat.
       
      Match-Up Strengths:
       
      In an unusual battle of weakness points, New England’s rushing potential is greater than the Bills potential to stop the run. In fact Corey Dillon whom
      is likely to return reflects well for New England’s chances as a powerful runner. This edge is one of the most desired in football as a power running attack
      wears down a defense, moves the chains, consumes the clock and inspires the team with the edge. Expect New England to fully explore their ability to exploit
      this weakness of the Bills. The signs of Atlanta and even Patrick Pass in Denver indicate New England is ready for their ground attack to highlight their
      new season.
       
      Despite the big running play of Tatum Bell in Denver, New England has shown it can stop the run when it dedicates schemes to this end. Buffalo may have
      a short range balance but they have a strong desire to get their ground game and the offense is predicated upon it. Stopping Willis McGahee on early downs
      works quickly to the disadvantage of the Bills and will be something they have to avoid. The Bills emulate Pittsburgh whom New England has had particularly
      effective games against. The first aspect of that is the propensity to run on early downs which when halted lends to New England’s schemes.
       
      The man in the middle of the Patriots defense is back. Tedy Bruschi is the defensive signal caller, inspirational leader and frequently the source of the
      much absent big plays. His return will fire up the crowd and team as well as giving a middle strength of intelligence and performance which will likely
      be a huge factor in the game. Whether he is personally up to speed or not is important but his mere presence will lift many performers around him and ensure
      New England is getting the right calls into the game at the right time.
       
      Match-Up Weakness:
       
      Brady was hit early and often in Denver which helped take him out of his game. Buffalo has a swarming zone attack which can put solid pressure on a quarterback.
      The left side of New England is manned by rookies whom will face fearsome pressure as Buffalo sets out to attack Brady and make the Patriots QB frustrated
      and uncomfortable. Their effectiveness at this is tantamount to their chances of victory and should be expected to be complex and intense.
       
      Special Teams are strength of the Bills and not that far removed from a New England weakness. Kick-off coverage will have caused Brad Seely fits and the
      many injuries and uncertainties of players will only enhance this challenge. This is an edge which can cause significant swing in a game and currently
      rests solidly in favor of the visitor Bills.
       
      Duane Starks whether by scheme, injury or actual ineptitude has made a season of offering up opposition receivers to look very good. Buffalo and every team
      in the league has seen his failings and will target him rightfully and heavily to test their chances for big gains. This only ends when Starks or the Pats
      defense by replacement or scheme bind this gaping wound in the secondary. With Tyrone Poole now out for the season this puts much hope on Randall Gay’s
      return which isn’t expected at this point. Three potential Strong Safeties are also now absent and New England has no additional secondary support to lend
      unless surprise developments occur. Despite their love of the Pass, Buffalo will have a secondary advantage if they can keep the down and distance reasonable.
       
      Strategy:
       
      Buffalo will first target the greatest advantage by attacking Starks. They have the personell to employ three wide receiver formations which encourage isolation
      of Starks and all of Moulds, Reed and Evans are capable of challenging his coverage. While reknowned for using McGahee more predominantly they also had
      the lesson in Oakland when he was held to 59 yards as reminder that a few well thrown passes will make his day much easier. They also have seen how New
      England adjusting personell and schemes against Pittsburgh let them over concentrate on the run in early downs and as such they will be prepared to keep
      New England guessing. As a similar tactic they have run some hurry up formations which prevent New England substitutions and will quickly challenge the
      previously confused defensive adjustments on the field. Whether Bruschi is ready to handle this as in past years is not demonstrated but they will certainly
      make him prove it early and often.
       
      Defensively the Bills know the Patriots go with Tom Brady first and foremost. They also love the pressure approach with many licks upon a QB to steadily
      and increasingly disrupt the passing game. They also know they have experience to throw at the young left side of New England’s offense. Brady’s blind
      side will get a large dose of blitz pressures while the safeties cheat up to support against both run and short passing ranges. This will expose them a
      bit to the deep threat but as New England has only had limited success and the Bill’s corners are playing well, will be a worthy gamble.
       
      New England on offense wants to attack the Bills soft run defense. Nothing shuts down pressure more quickly than a successful running game. The question
      of Corey Dillon’s health is important but with or without him New England will run much behind Stephen Neal as they attack a soft spot on the undersized
      Bills line. Using this to set up the play action of Tom Brady will help them exploit potential weakness in coverage against their talented Tight Ends.
      The double Tight End blocking formation is also a dangerous pass formation against a slower Lawyer Milloy. If every third run had a play action pass to
      Watson or Graham then the Bills might quickly find themselves reeling.
       
      Defensively New England’s biggest challenge has mostly no answer. Starks has been weak and exposed for enough of the season that all easy cures have been
      attempted. There is, however, nothing like pressure to strengthen a Secondary and so health at Defensive line and linebacker are tantamount. Can Bruschi’s
      middle presence free up the outside backers to put run-blitz pressure on the Quarterback? Can Seymour get back on the field with Warren, Wilfork and Green
      to make a team strength return to their formidable stature? It is a sad testament to the notion of starting over that in their seventh game there are more
      questions than plans but one thing is clear, New England must either replace Starks with a healthy and capable body or enhance the pressure on the opposition.
      Stopping first down gains and making for longer late downs will help them ramp up this pressure and hopefully force many punts.
       
      Prediction:
       
      This team has always been about team first and the man whom epitomizes returns with the reminder that his return is about the team as well. The 53 man roster
      wasn’t fully a team without number 54 and he is now back. His return inspires the crowd and the team but more importantly the team has spent a week to
      review their failings and regain the focus they need for this new start. McGahee will be stopped early and often but Holcomb’s accuracy will take a while
      to wear down. Meanwhile Dillon or Pass will combine with the line to make some early running room and soften the defense for Brady’s accuracy. Early offensive
      scores force the Bills hands more steadily and ultimately a lost art returns to New England as Tedy helps inspire Hypnotic Willie McGinest, Mike Vrablnikoff
      and ball-hawking Assante Samuels to spark turnovers and turn this game into a lopsided New England victory!
       
      New England Patriots: 31 - Buffalo Bills: 16
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