It was very hard for me to concentrate at work on Friday. I was having a conversation with a coworker about football (because, that’s really all I talk about), and he asked me who the Patriots were playing. I told him we were playing the Bills and expressed my worry over facing Buffalo’s DE, Mario Williams. I asked what he thought the Pats needed to do in order to beat the Bills on Sunday. His words, verbatim: “Show up. Scratch that, even if they don’t the Bills will probably find a way to lose.”
Aside from “showing up,” here are 7 things that need to happen on Sunday to beat the Bills and solidify our spot on top of the AFC East:
1.The Pats need to shut down Mario Williams, early.
Although he got off to a slow start, Williams has now had 3 sacks in his last 3 games, so easier said than done, right? Keeping Tom Brady upright has proved to be a struggle for this Pats offensive line (they have allowed 14 sacks on the season so far). Protecting Brady from the Bills’ front seven will have to start right off the bat. They can’t let Williams get too confident, so stopping him early is key.
2. Logan Mankins and Aaron Hernandez.
Mankins, who has been nursing a sore calf, is listed as probable on the Pats’ injury report. His return could be a huge factor in making sure Tom Brady avoids pressure. Both Mankins and TE, Aaron Hernandez (who welcomed a baby girl on Tuesday, congrats!) were limited at practice this week, but they should be ready to go, come Sunday. Having Hernandez back will not only add to Tom Brady’s deep threat, but also take some of the attention off of other big receivers like Welker and Gronk, allowing them to make big plays.
3. Putting pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick.
For a team who struggles on pass-defense, the Pats were able to pick off Fitzpatrick 3 times in their first meeting, so getting pressure on him and forcing him to get the ball out fast is a must. Fitzpatrick, a Harvard alum, tends to be foolish with the ball when faced with quick decision-making.
4. The Pats D must play PHYSICAL.
With such prolific RBs as CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson, you would expect a QB to just hand the ball off to them. Not Ivy-leaguer, Ryan Fitzpatrick. He threw the ball 40 times in the Pats’ 52-28 stomping earlier this season. So if our front 7 can stay right on top of the QB and pressure him to make fast decisions, our sub-par secondary should be able to get their hands on a few of Fitzpatrick’s passes.
5. Mixing up the back field.
Last time the Pats played the Bills, Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley rushed for over 100 yards each (Gronkowski and Welker both had +100 yard games as well). This time, Brandon Bolden is listed as out with a knee injury, so Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen will need to step up big in his absence.
6. The Pats’ Secondary needs to take away the middle of the field.
There has been a recurring theme this season; The Patriots have lost fourth quarter leads against the Ravens, Seahawks and Jets. The biggest gains on those game-winning or game-tying drives have all come on plays down the middle of the field. Our pass defense is currently ranked 28th in the league, allowing opponents to throw for over 281 yards per game (pathetic). Bill Belichick is clearly as sick of this ranking as the rest of us, trading a 4th round pick for Bucs’ CB, Aqib Talib and a 7th round pick. Due to his suspension, we won’t see Talib until next week, but Devin McCourty has already made his move from Corner to safety. McCourty, who has struggled this season (and seasons past) might be better suited at the safety position. Only time will tell if this Talib move was a “Haynesworth” or a “Welker”.
7. The home crowd needs to be LOUD.
This doesn’t really need an explanation. But as evidenced by our 11-0 record vs. AFC East opponents at Gillette, the home crowd tends to rattle our rivals. This needs to continue today. The colder the better, right, Pats fans?
Enjoy the game!