by Mario Granata
There are many theories that have been presented on how the Buffalo Bills can defeat the hated New England Patriots in Week 2 of the 2015 NFL season. If there is one person who can match defensive chops with the great Bill Belichick, it is Rex Ryan. Ryan has to have some help from his offense, however and needs them to come up with timely scores to take an early stranglehold over the AFC East. Here are the keys to victory for the Buffalo Bills this weekend.
Control the Clock:
The age old adage that in order to defeat the Patriots, the Bills have to keep Tom Brady off the field. Many people might not realize, but in the last 4 matchups against the Patriots, when Ryan and Dennis Thurman were at the helm in New York, the Jets held a meager 1-3 record, however the Jets lost those 3 games by a combined 6 points. This was due in large part to keeping the ball, and controlling the clock. Enter Greg Roman. With his run heavy offense, and short passing game moving the sticks, Roman will have to have Tyrod Taylor orchestrate some 8+ minute drives, even if they only result in field goals. Control the clock, and keep Brady off the field will lead to victory for the Bills. This point is magnified when you take into account that 24 of Brady’s 32 passes against the Steelers were 10 yards or less. Forcing him to throw down the field will help the Bills. He hangs onto the ball longer, and gives the front 4 a chance to get to him.
While the blueprint for Greg Roman and the offense will be to keep the ball, the key for Ryan and Thurman will be to emulate what the New York Giants have done to Brady and the Patriots offense in some of the biggest games. When the Patriots went undefeated in 2007, the Giants rushed their front 4 and kept 7 in coverage to defeat New England. They also implemented an interesting strategy to bracket the slot receiver, who will be Julian Edelman. By placing a linebacker on the inside of Edelman and a slot corner on the outside of him, this will force Brady to go to the second level and hopefully force him to hand onto the ball longer. Tom Brady has had a simple yet effective offensive plan in recent years. Hit Edelman or Gronkowski first or dump it down to the backs as a safety valve. If the Bills can bracket Edelman, and slow down Gronkowski (because lets face it, he will get his catches) this will force the Patriots to keep their backs into block rather than have them out in pass patterns. If the Bills can do this, they will force Brady to other options in the receiving core, which the Bills will have an advantage over Danny Amendola or whoever they have running route this week. Due to the rookies that are on the offensive line for the Patriots, look for the Bills to exploit them and take their foot off the gas as far as blitzing this week.
Pound the Rock:
Okay, this idea might be a derivative of Controlling the Clock, but the idea still holds. The games where the Jets were competitive against the Patriots, they were running the ball upwards near 40 times a contest. After Week 1, the rushing attack from the Bills leaves much to be desired so expect a heavy dose of LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams early and often if they are effective. This means two things: the Bills offensive line has to control the trenches against a formidable front 7 of the Patriots, and Taylor has to run the play clock down to the very end before snapping the ball. Now, in the game against the Colts, the Bills took an offensive timeout after the change of possession. Timeouts are gold when it comes to playing teams, and especially when it comes to the Patriots. McCoy should be given ample space to run (as DeAngelo Williams did) so running the ball should be better for the Bills this week.
Beating a team that was in the AFC Championship the previous year was a wake-up call for the league. Beating BOTH teams who were in the AFC Championship, one of which are the defending Super Bowl Champions would put the entire NFL on notice that the Bills are for real. If the Bills are to be victorious this weekend against the Patriots, this could catapult the Bills back to the days of the 1990s when teams didn’t want to step foot in Orchard Park.