Saturday, September 24, 2011

Three Quick Keys to Beating the Patriots

1. Pressure up the middle

Tom Brady is a handsome, rich impregnator of supermodels, and as such, kind of a hard guy to like for most ordinary mortals. That said, even the most virulently anti-Brady fan has to admit that no quarterback in football has better pocket awareness than Brady. He won't threaten you as a runner like Mike Vick, or shrug off hits like Ben Roethlisberger, but Brady is a master of making those subtle movements to keep his feet clean and allow him to step into his throws.

The trick with Brady (as it admittedly is with most pocket QBs) is attack the A gap. Brady is much less effective moving and resetting either to his right or (especially) to his left. The Bills are going to need to crowd those A gaps with rushers and cause some confusion for backup center Dan Connolly. Whether or not the rush is coming, a split second of hesitation from Connolly is all Kyle Williams will need.

2. Do the small things. 

In each of the Patriots' games this year, there have been two primary storylines:

1. The Patriots amazing up tempo passing game and,

2. The Patriots capitalizing on the mistakes of their opponents.

The latter was especially true in the San Diego game, where the Chargers turned the ball over four times in a 35-21 loss. Fortunately, these little plays are exactly the type of things that the Bills have been doing throughout this season. Here's a couple of stats for you:

Penalties- 8 (3rd)
First downs- 28.5 (2nd)
TOP- 33:54 (5th)
TO Diff- +3 (8th)
3rd down- 44% (9th)

Yep, the Buffalo Bills have, in a weird way, become the New England Patriots. They're controlling the ball, not taking bad penalties or making crucial mistakes. If you don't believe, let's look at those same stats from a year ago.

Penalties- 82 (6th)
First downs- 16.4 (26th)
TOP- 28:36 (26th)
TO Diff- -17 (32nd)
3rd down- 38% (18th)

Although I have to admit I was surprised how few penalties we took last year, the point still holds- the Bills have been a much more efficient club this year.  If you're going to have a chance against the New England Patriots, you are going to need to minimize your mistakes and capitalize off of theirs.

3. Put the ball in the end zone.

Probably the single most important key. The Patriots are going to score their points, there really doesn't seem to be any way around that. The Chargers scored on only two of four attempts in the red zone. The Dolphins were goal to go five times and ended up with only three touchdowns. Last week we saw the Bills generate five touchdowns on five second half drives. While its probably too much to ask that they continue to be that automatic, they need to be aggressive in terms of 4th down and red zone opportunities. Kicking a 25 yard field goal instead of going for it on fourth and nothing cannot happen this game. If the Patriots end up stuffing us and going 93 yards the other way, so be it. We've got the best running game in the NFL, a huge offensive line and a couple of players designed by nature to generate first downs (I'm looking at you Brad Smith and David Nelson).

Let's play this game to win.

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