|Scouting Report: What you have to know about Bills-Patriots||10.01.16 at 11:32 am ET|
What you have to know when it comes to Sunday’s Bills-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
For one more game — at least until You Know Who returns — this is the unquestioned strength of the New England offense. The Patriots lead the league in rushing, and LeGarrette Blount (75 carries, 298 yards, four touchdowns) is the top individual rusher in the NFL after three weeks. From this viewpoint, if Jimmy Garoppolo plays, that could mean the Patriots will rely more on the passing game, and by association, more on the likes of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. If Jacoby Brissett is under center, look for them to pack it in, rely on more big formations with extra tight ends and fullback James Develin and lean on Blount just as much as they have done over the course of the first three games. It’s worth noting that over the course of his career, Blount has enjoyed limited success against Buffalo with a nice yards per carry average, but has never really been cut loose: in five career games against the Bills, Blount has averaged just 12 carries and 65 yards a game, but has a whopping 5.53 yards per carry. That could change this week. On the other side, the Bills are tied for 15th in the league in run defense, having allowed an average of 98 rushing yards per game. (The Jets hit them for 123 yards on the ground in a Week Two win in Buffalo.)
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
There’s so much uncertainty here for the second straight week, I’m almost tempted to leave this section blank. Everyone knows the story: it’s either going to be Garoppolo (42-for-59, 496 yards, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 119) and his right shoulder, or Brissett (17-for-28, 61 percent, 195 yards, 81.7 passer rating) and his thumb. Our guy Kirk Minihane said that it’s going to be Garoppolo. But as previously stated, the game plan is going to depend on who’s out there — if it’s Garoppolo, more pass attempts, if it’s Brissett, more of a run-based attack. But regardless of who’s under center on Sunday, when it comes to the passing game, the Patriots will rely on the likes of Julian Edelman (18 catches, 24 targets, 180 yards), Danny Amendola (9 catches, 10 targets, 138 yards, one TD) and Chris Hogan (8 catches, 13 targets, 122 yards, one TD) and tight ends Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett (10 catches, 14 targets, 138 yards, one TD).
Buffalo is 22nd in the league against the pass (285 yards per game allowed), but one of their strengths of this group is its ability to take advantage of things when an opponent becomes a one-dimensional team. Last week, the Bills were able to get up early on the Cardinals and force them to pass to get back into it. As a result, they became the first team in the NFL since 2013 to come away with four fourth-quarter picks. Overall, they have second takeaways (four picks and three fumble recoveries) and just two giveaways (both fumbles). That plus-five is good enough to tie them for third in the league, and trail only Minnesota (plus-8) and Philadelphia (plus-six). When it comes to getting after the passer, outside linebacker Jerry Hughes (three sacks) is probably their best pure rusher. As a ream, they’re tied for third in sacks with 10.
WHEN THE BILLS RUN THE BALL
This was clearly the strength of the Buffalo offense through the first three games, and now, with wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) on the sidelines, it’s even more the case. The Buffalo running game is powered by LeSean McCoy, a speedy, multidimensional back who can stress a defense as a slashing runner who can also catch the ball out of the backfield. “Shady” has 227 yards on 48 carries (4.7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns through three games, to go along with 13 catches for 98 yards. McCoy had a pair of touchdowns and his first 100-yard rushing game Sunday against Arizona. Buffalo will also mix in some designed runs for quarterback Tyrod Taylor (16 carries, 112 yards, one touchdown).
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have done well against the run for two-thirds of the first three games of the season. Things kind of got away from them in the second half against the Cardinals, a game where New England yielded 92 rushing yards, most of them to David Johnson, a back whose skill set does bear some resemblance to McCoy. While statistically, the game against the Texans represented a season-high in terms of rushing yards allowed — 109 — much of that came when the game was no longer in doubt, so we’ll excuse those numbers. The fact those numbers have come without Dont’a Hightower in the lineup for the last two games is a good sign for the Patriots, and from this viewpoint, if he’s out there on Sunday, it’ll go a long way toward taking away Buffalo’s offensive strength.
WHEN THE BILLS PASS THE BALL
Numbers can be bent any way you want, but the truth is that if you want to stop the Bills, stack the line of scrimmage with an eye toward containing McCoy and make Taylor to beat you over the top. Taylor is in the bottom half of the league when it comes to most major passing categories — he’s completed 47-of-77 pass attempts (61 percent) for 527 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions through three games. Taylor has cracked the 100-yard passing mark through the air in only one of his three games (297 yards against the Jets), and in three career games against the Patriots, he’s 0-3 while going 44-for-70 (63 percent), 477 yards and three touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 73.3. McCoy leads the team in catches, but without Watkins, expect Taylor to also lean on wide receiver Robert Woods (11 catches, 15 targets, 81 yards) and tight end Charles Clay (seven catches 12 targets, 67 yards). The Patriots’ pass defense is 18th in the league, having allowed an average of 271 passing yards per game. In terms of the challenges that have been presented to the New England pass defense to this point in the season, the Bills are easily the weakest of the bunch.
|Chris Hogan keeping it real to pay back Rex Ryan, Bills: ‘It’s all business for 60 minutes’||at 10:54 am ET|
FOXBORO — To Chris Hogan, this weekend’s game against the Bills isn’t about facing old teammates – it’s all business.
The Patriots receiver, in his first season in New England after four with the Bills, is getting to face many of his former mates on Sunday on the Gillette Stadium turf.
“This isn’t about me going against the Bills,” Hogan said Friday after the final full practice before taking the field Sunday. “This is about the Patriots playing the Bills, a [division] opponent and a big game for us as a team. Get this and get another win under our belt and just keep playing the way we have been playing in special teams, offense, defense.
“If we keep playing that we do, we have some really special things happening here. So, that’s where we’re focused on. I’m not focused on my relationships or I’m going back to play an old team. It’ll be great to see those guys at the end of the game but it’s all business for 60 minutes.”
From 2012 through last season, Hogan built relationships and a spotless reputation in the Buffalo community after kicking around with the 49ers, Giants and Dolphins after attending Penn State (lacrosse) and Monmouth (football).
“I will be forever grateful to them,” Hogan said. “That organization gave me my first chance. That’s really where I started my career. I was there for four years. I established a lot of relationships with those guys and to this day, I still do [have relationships]. I will always look back on my careers as that’s where I started.
“Those guys are all my friends. But we’re playing a game now. Once the whistle blows, for 60 minutes I’m going to be playing football. Afterwards, we can talk and do all that. My focus is doing my job and taking advantage of all my opportunities out there.”
When he wasn’t spoofing Julian Edelman, Rex Ryan was paying tribute to another Patriots receiver. Ryan had Hogan for just one season but was impressed with what he saw. But the Bills made the financial decision not to match the three-year, $12 million offer sheet from the Patriots in March and Hogan switched teams in the AFC East rivalry.
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|Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman getting ready to ‘spin the dial’ with Rex Ryan’s defense||09.30.16 at 6:41 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When it comes to the Bills defense this Sunday at Gillette Stadium, Bill Belichick is telling his team to expect the unexpected.
And the players are buying in.
One such player is Julian Edelman. The receiver has certainly had his chances against Ryan over his eight-year career. Last year, in the 40-32 win at Orchard Park, Edelman was targeted 19 times by Tom Brady. He caught 11 passes for 97 yards. That was easily his most active game in 11 career matchups against Ryan’s defense.
In 10 games against Ryan’s Jets (2009-14), Edelman caught 38 passes on 60 targets for 367 yards but just one touchdown.
Edelman has seen all sorts of coverages, man, press, zone, brackets with all different kinds of pressure combinations off those coverages.
“I see a spin-the-dial defense,” Edelman said Friday. “They bring a lot of everything. A well-coached team and a team that always plays us well. They’ve got a veteran group in the secondary that we’ve played a bunch. They know us. We know them. It’s going to be one of those games where you have to execute. The best team that executes will have a better chance of going out and winning.”
“They give a bunch of different looks. So, you’ve just got to lean on your fundamentals of the play and the scheme of what you have to do on certain looks. This [Buffalo] is one of the best teams at doing those types of things.”
Dennis Thurman is the defensive coordinator in Buffalo. Thurman is a former NFL corner for the Cowboys and Cardinals in the 1970s and 80s. But when it comes to the exotic nature of the Bills defense, Belichick has little doubt who’s making the final calls.
“I’d say it depends on who the person is and what the system – I mean I think we know where a lot of the decisions on defense with Buffalo are coming from,” Belichick said Friday, clearly referencing Ryan. “And I’m sure there’s certainly a team effort and a group effort and group ideas and so forth, but I think we also know where some of these are coming from and so to me its whoever the decision maker is.
|Rex Ryan responds to Wednesday conference call: ‘We’re here in Buffalo, nobody likes anything in Boston’||09.29.16 at 2:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — On Wednesday, Rex Ryan got testy on his conference call with the New England media, as he didn’t like a question that referred to him saying he is an “above-average” coach.
On Thursday, he responded by saying it’s not the first time he’s gone back-and-forth with the New England media, while adding “nobody like anything in Boston.”
“I don’t even care. It’s like whatever,” Ryan told reporters, courtesy of ESPN’s Mike Rodak. “That doesn’t bother me at all. Let’s face it, we’re here in Buffalo, nobody likes anything in Boston.”
Including reporters, a reporter asked?
“Pretty much,” Ryan said.
The coach was then asked if the New England media is trying to get under his skin.
“Oh, please,” Ryan said. “It’s not the first time — it’s like seven or eight years. It’s the same every time you talk to them. So you have fun with them. Going back and forth.”
Ryan is 4-11 against the Patriots, including one playoff game.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|Rex Ryan gets testy with New England media on conference call for 2nd straight year||09.28.16 at 3:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For the second straight year, Bills coach Rex Ryan got upset with the New England media on the weekly conference call with the opposing coach.
Ryan was first asked about him saying the Bills won the offseason. The coach said his quote was misinterpreted, but he doesn’t regret what he said.
“No, I would regret something I said? No, I’m never doing that,” Ryan said. “What I meant was, going into the offseason — that thing has been a great comment by the way — but what I meant was our guys did a great job in their commitment. They were totally committed to what they were doing. They were focused. They came in, they worked out. Beyond that, it was guys were in early, out late. That’s basically what I was trying to say. We had a great offseason that way. It had nothing to do with players that went to other teams, or came to our team. It had nothing to do with that.
“Of course it was blown up that we won the offseason, or whatever. I get it. I said it so, I’ll take it. No problem, I said it. I think everyone missed the intent of what I was saying, but who cares anyway.”
Ryan was then asked about him being on record saying he’s an “above-average” coach, but yet he has a 35-48 record since 2011.
“I don’t know. I guess that’s the way it is,” he said. “You guys would know better than me.”
The next question was a general one about quarterback Tyrod Taylor and his play over the first three games.
“Above-average quarterback,” Ryan said. “You guys just fill in the blanks, whatever you want to say. Above-average quarterback.”
|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Rob Gronkowski and Rex Ryan silliness||at 2:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO — What’s the latest with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett? Is Rob Gronkowski close to 100 percent? And what are the latest shenanigans of Rex Ryan? All this and more as WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview Patriots Bills inside Gillette Stadium.
|Rex Ryan poses as ‘Walt Patulski’ and asks Julian Edelman if he’s playing quarterback this week||at 1:09 pm ET|
Rex Ryan really must be feeling bored.
The affable Bills head coach reached a new level on Wednesday conference call when he posed as “Walt Patulski” a reporter for the Buffalo News and asked Patriots receiver Julian Edelman if he were playing quarterback for the Patriots.
“Are you playing quarterback?” Ryan asked.
“I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” an unsuspecting Edelman said. “If they ask me to go out and give a glass a water to someone on the sideline, I’m going to do that with a smile on my face if it helps our team win. You can ask our coach about that.”
Ryan quipped, “All right buddy, I will.”
New media member "Walt Patulski from the Buffalo News" jumps in with a hard-hitting question for Julian Edelman. pic.twitter.com/mBHrzIDeSx
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) September 28, 2016
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