Guest Editor: Matthew Elder (BuffaloBillsDraft.com)
As we enter the 2012 season the New England Patriots still sit atop the AFC East, the Pats have observed unprecedented dominance winning the division nine times since 2000. Anytime you see individual teams dominate like that it’s time for your opponents to innovate and change the way they are doing things and finally it appears as though the Bills have been able to do that.
When you talk about the New England Patriots two things always come to mind, the first is QB Tom Brady and the other is Head Coach Bill Belichick. These two have become one of the most successful QB-Coach tandems in NFL History having gone 138-40 in games that Brady started. So how do we as Bills fan hope to beat this juggernaut? Well it’s actually quite simple, we just have to do what we do best in three easy steps.
Editor’s Note: This week, we’ll be featuring some articles from the editor’s of our network sites, detailing what they feel they’re teams plan is for taking down the Patriots in 2012.
This seems like one of those easier said than done type situations, but it’s not for the Bills. The Bills added the most coveted defensive free agent this offseason in DE Mario Williams, and they also snagged former Pats DE Mark Anderson to complete the duo.
Now while I know Pats fans have tried to down play this, nobody nationally is. The Bills pass rush from their DE tandem has gone from non-existent to having the potential to be the best in the league.
On top of that you add a dominant DT duo in Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus and you see why the Bills and their fan base are so excited for this season. You see while most teams plan to harass Brady they have to plan to blitz him and come up with creative schemes to beat the Patriots and get to the QB. This opens up coverage holes that Brady has already proven deadly at beating. The Bills however can generate that pressure with just their front four, they can generate it from the inside or the outside, and they could make Brady’s life miserable all while dropping seven back into coverage.
The Bills defensive line additions are only made worse for the Pats by the loss of Matt Light and the entrance of highly thought of youngster Nate Solder who is not yet tested. While many fans will try and convince themselves that there will be between zero and a minimal drop off from Light to Solder let’s just see what happens once Solder is lined up across from Super Mario, shall we?
Spread the Field
The Patriots defensive backfield scares almost nobody and their draft didn’t do anything to help that. Kyle Arrington was the big INT guy but most of those were due to be in the right place at the right time than due to amazing coverage skills. The Bills are perfectly built to exploit a defensive backfield that is short on talent and depth by going to their four and five WR sets. For most teams spreading the field like this would severely limit their playbook and take extra prep time during the week of practice, but for the Bills this is their standard offense. So the different variations they can run out of these formations are only limited by the mind of Chan Gailey.
The Pats pass defense was among the worst in the league last year giving up an average of 293.9 yards per game during the regular season. Forcing them to utilize their nickel and dime backs constantly and rotate in players who normally wouldn’t see the field will only hurt the Pats. If the Pats answer is to try and blitz Fitzpatrick that’s fine, the Bills OL was amongst the best in not allowing sacks and our offense is designed to take advantage of short throws into vacated zone.
Protect the Football and Control the Clock
This seems pretty self explanatory but it’s still necessary, during the regular season last year the Pats had a +17 turnover ratio and were among the best in the league in capitalizing on mistakes and making teams pay for making them. The Bills simply cannot allow that to happen. They have the perfect offense to work the Pats defense drive after drive but they need Ryan Fitzpatrick to not throw those killer INT’s he’s been known to do.
With the combination of Spiller and Jackson combined with the Bills passing attack there is no reason to think the Bills will struggle to convert first downs and sustain long drives. If the Bills have a lead late in the game they should immediately look to torture their defense by the Chinese method of 1,000 cuts. A four yard carry here, a five yard pass there, and suddenly two minutes are gone and you’re sitting at 3rd and 1 within a high probability of converting. And after all, like I said above this is what the Bills already do so well.
I see the Bills improving on their split from 2011 and sweeping the Patriots in 2012 – edging them out on the final weekend to take the division crown back to Buffalo. Good Luck Pats fans we’ll see you in season!
Read more from Matthew Elder, unrepentant Bills fan, respected draft scout and small-school guru at BuffaloBillsDraft.com – you won’t regret it.