INSIDE SLANT: Ahh, the Buffalo Bills. Let me repeat, the Buffalo Bills. Thinking about about Pats Bills games in the Belichick/Brady era brings Pats fans a smile. Pats fans if you are having rough week - you will look forward to playing the Bills. No matter what goes wrong -- overdrafts on your bank account, significant others yelling at you or a dog just not cooperating - playing the Bills will bring a smile to your face. Tom Brady loves the Bills too, as he is 28-3 against them in his career and one of the Bills wins occurred in the last game of the 2014 season when the Pats had nothing to play for and rested a lot of their starters. The Pats could not be playing the Bills at a better time. The Bills are starting Derek Anderson, 35, at QB who until three weeks ago was not in the NFL. Last week, the Bills lost 37-5 to the Indianapolis Colts. The Bills defense is respectable - but will likely give Tom Brady little trouble considering the Pats offense has scored at least 38 points in their last four games.
Defensively, given the Bills struggles on offense it will be a good way for a Pats defense that gave up 71 points the last two weeks to boost its confidence and improve the pass rush. Adrian Clayborn said Tuesday "We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot and making the plays we are supposed to make. The rest should take care of itself." The Pats could also use this game to potentially experiment with more safety blitzes or figure out their best defensive line combinations. It would be nice to see J.C. Jackson learn from his mistakes against the Chicago Bears. Jackson has an energy and a confidence that the rest of the defense should emulate.
SERIES HISTORY: 117th meeting, Pats lead series 72-43-1. Belichick has dominated the Bills since arriving in New England with a 31-4 record. Brady has only lost twice in Buffalo since he became the Patriots starting QB. The first loss came five days after the Pats cut captain Lawyer Milloy in 2003 and the Bills blew out the Pats 31-0. The Pats returned the favor in the last game of the season by blowing out the Bills 31-0. Brady also lost to the Bills in Buffalo in early 2011. Brady has won six straight times in Buffalo and 16 out of 18 times overall. Bottom line, Buffalo has been good to Brady.
Bill Belichick said it is complicated as to how to improve the Pats defense against mobile quarterbacks.
"Yeah, well, we could be here for a while on that one. Essentially, it depends on what the call is, what our responsibility is, how many people are involved, three, four, five or six-man rush? Whatever it is. There are a lot of varying factors – what the protection is. But fundamentally it's the responsibility of the players that are rushing the quarterback to maintain leverage on them. We'll keep working on that," Belichick said Wednesday.
Bill Belichick said running back James White often asks questions like a coach in meetings. As for where he developed that incredible discipline.
"I'm not sure. I guess from my parents. They're pretty detailed people. My dad is a police officer and my mom is a probation officer, so they're very detail-oriented and I think that kind of got instilled in me, just trying to get all of the finer points. Maybe that's where it comes from," White said Wednesday.
White could also see himself as a coach. "Possibly. Yeah, I feel like I could do it. I mean it just depends how I feel once my career is over with, but I feel like it would be cool to kind of pass down my knowledge to the younger generation," White said.
Josh Gordon looks more comfortable in the Pats offense every week. What is particularly impressive about Gordon is the ease with which he can catch the ball like his big catch on fourth and one against the Bears.
BY THE NUMBERS:
71 - The number of points given up by the Pats defense in the last two games.
155 - The number of points scored by the Pats offense in the last four games - all of which they have won. The Pats have scored 38 points in exactly three of those games and 41 points in one of those games. The offensive struggles that occurred in the Pats two September road losses to Jacksonville and Detroit seem like a distant memory.
1 - The number of sacks in seven games by Pats DE Adrian Clayborn.
8 - the number of straight times the Pats gave the ball to James White on their final drive who earned two first downs and forced the Bears to use all their timeouts. White, who had the winning touchdown run in the Pats Super Bowl against Atlanta, is about as clutch as a player can be.
10- the number of catches that Chris Hogan has in the last two games. With Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, Hogan will receive favorable matchups as the Pats third receiver.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL: Duron Harmon: It would be nice to see Harmon who tackled Bears WR Kevin White on the one yard line as time expired make more plays and take better angles when it comes to open field tackles. Harmon took a really bad angle on the 75-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill two weeks ago.
Trent Brown: When Khalil Mack rushed the passer against the Pats last week (somewhat of a rarity with him often in coverage), Trent Brown dominated him. Brown has played well at left tackle this year. A quiet reserved player -- Brown has been all business since arriving in New England.
Lawrence Guy: The Patriots player that is probably receiving the least attention, but is playing well. Guy can draw double teams and is a solid run stuffer. The interior of the Pats defensive line is not the problem with Guy, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton. The Pats simply need more pass rush from Deatrich Wise, Trey Flowers, and Adrian Clayborn.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dont’a Hightower’s performance the past two weeks has at least eased concerns that he should become a situational pass rusher. He had a nice interception return that led to a Pats touchdown against Kansas City and blocked a punt against the Bears that Kyle Van Noy scooped up and ran for a touchdown. Hightower still needs to play better, but he is showing improvement after only playing five games in 2017.
GAME PLAN: Offensively, the strategy is to throw the ball away from the Bills No. 1 corner Tre'Davious White who often takes the other teams No. 1 receiver. The Bills second corner is old friend Ryan Lewis who the Pats released at the end of training camp. If White takes Edelman, Josh Gordon could have a big day day against Lewis. The Bills safeties, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, are also instinctive players who can make plays. Brady must be mindful of their presence. With that said, don't expect the Pats to have much trouble scoring on the Bills.
Defensively, there is just not much to worry about for the Pats. Derek Anderson, 35, is doing his best, but is limited by age and ability. The Bills leading receiver is Zay Jones with 19 catches. Kelvin Benjamin is trying with 14 catches and Charles Clay has 16 catches. Former Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore can take away Benjamin and the Pats can take away Jones with help over the top. Patrick Chung, the team's best defender at covering the tight end, will likely be matched up against Clay. If LeSean McCoy is unable to play because of injury, it could be another long day for an offense that scored only three points against the Colts last week. Derek Anderson had no touchdowns and three interceptions in that game.
QUOTES ON GAME: Adrian Clayborn, a man of few words, on the mobility of Anderson. "I don't really consider him a mobile QB. Consider him more of a pocket passer."
Bill Belichick on the Bills safeties. "They work very well together. It's hard to talk about one without talking about the other one. They do an excellent job of disguising their coverages and the blitzes because they do pressure a pretty fair amount. They are both very instinctive and make some plays based on anticipation, experience, recognition of offensive formations or plays as they develop. They react to them pretty quickly," Belichick said.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: LT Trent Brown v. DE Jerry Hughes (Hughes is a good pass rusher who has 4.5 sacks this season and Brown must protect Brady's blindside).
LG Vladimir Ducasse v. DE Lawrence Guy (Giving Ducasse a mention because he played at UMass - he must prevent Guy from blowing up the Bills running game).