One of the things that allowed the Patriots to have success the first time they played the Bills on Sept. 30 in Buffalo was the fact that the Bills used a smaller defense with more defensive backs in hopes of slowing down the New England passing game. The Patriots recognized the mismatches and ended up running the ball for most of the afternoon — Brandon Bolden (137 rushing yards) and Stevan Ridley (106 rushing yards) both went over the 100-yard mark as the team rushed for 247 yards on the day.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels  talked about that game on a Monday conference call with reporters, acknowledging that the New England offense “started slow,” but was able to make up for lost time in the second half.
“We were fortunate in our first game that the game kind of stayed where it was in the end of the third quarter, because we scored on our first drive, but we started slow overall in the first half,” McDaniels said of the Patriots, who were down 21-7 but ended up scoring 45 points in the second half for the 52-28 win. “We put the ball on the ground a bunch and had a lot of third-and-longs in our first game. We were fortunate to have an opportunity to come out of that game playing better in the second half.”
One thing that McDaniels was able to take away from Buffalo’s performance this past weekend against the Texans was the fact that the Bills played a lot more base defense against Houston than it did against the Patriots back in Week Four, primarily because Houston was in a two-receiver set for most of the game.
“[The Buffalo defense] created some negative plays, which they did some of that in our game as well. I just think overall they are a team that … they don’t do too many different things — they just continue to get better at the things that they do. And I think that’s something that over the long course of a season can really pay a lot of dividends,” he added. “This is a defense that can certainly create a lot of problems for you. We know them pretty well and they know us pretty well. The second game of a division rivalry is always kind of an exciting deal.”
Here are some more highlights of McDaniels Q&A with the media on Monday afternoon:
Have you ever had to game plan against Aqib Talib  when you were with Denver or St. Louis? Do you have an idea what strengths he has as a corner?
“I don’t think I’ve actually played against him now that you mention it. The only time I think we really had an opportunity to do that was in the preseason there this year. But we didn’t play Tampa in St. Louis and didn’t play Tampa in Denver, so I’m not real familiar with him. We did a little bit of work on him in the preseason. He practiced hard and I thought he was very competitive in our practices against them this year, but I don’t really know a whole lot about him.”
What is your appraisal of Tom Brady ‘s first half of the season? Also, what are your thoughts on Tom’s pocket awareness this season compared to earlier in his career?
“I think that the quarterback in general, and Tom specifically, is really evaluated on his decision making, his accuracy and his ability to take care of the football and then ultimately get our offense into the end zone. Tom’s always trying to get better and is always working hard at it. There are certainly things that he can do better than what we’ve done in the first portion of the season. I know he’ll work hard at trying to maximize his performance going forward. I think his pocket awareness and the things he does in the pocket have always been strengths of his. I think he does a great job of understanding the quarterback position. There is always kind of an invisible clock in your head and you know based on the scheme or the protection how many blockers we’re keeping in, how many receivers we’re sending out and that may change or alter how much time you have to deliver the football. I think he’s very aware of those different dynamics that can happen on each pass play. He does, generally, a really good job of distributing the ball where it needs to be distributed and also understanding on certain plays there is a time and a place to hold it and there is a time and a place to take the check down or throw the ball underneath or even throw the ball away and move onto the next play and try to get the first down some other way. He’s somebody who obviously understands our passing game and his ability to operate within that system and do the right thing is certainly a big thing for us and will be going forward.”
What are your impressions on Visanthe Shiancoe since his return from injury and would you expect him to be an asset to the offense sooner rather than later?
“Visanthe has obviously been in the league a long time and has had a lot of productivity prior to being here. He had a few opportunities before he got injured there earlier in training camp and he’s only had a few opportunities since coming back. I think in order to make a decision or evaluate that, every day is important, every opportunity that he gets is important and every opportunity that we get to see him is important in terms of trying to make a good evaluation. However that unfolds, you’re adding another competitive player to a competitive position on our team and then trying to get the best out of that position in general. It’s exciting to have another guy out there that can do some different things. He has a skill set that has certainly been productive in the NFL before. Like I said, every day is going to hopefully be a growing experience for him as he gets better within our system and we better understand how he fits into it as well.”
“I think our offensive line as a whole has done a nice job. Like every position on offense we have room to improve and room to grow and room to play better than we have. We ask a lot of different things out of our tackle position. We ask them to do certain things in the screen game and they do. We ask them to pass protect and single block some good pass rushers and they’ve gone out there and really tried to step up and answer the challenge. We ask them to pull and do certain things in the running game ‘ we run outside and we run inside. There are a lot of different functions that they serve and I think that by and large, if you can protect your quarterback and run the football and do some of those things to stay out of negative situations, it certainly reflects positively on the work of the offensive line and I would say the tackles are a big part of that group.”