What do the Buffalo Bills need to do to beat the Patriots (beyond the obvious score more points)?
Create uncertainty: do the unexpected
The Bills are still playoff contenders at 3-5, so I’m not advocating crazy high-risk play calls. What they need to do is keep the Patriots off balance by utilizing unexpected play calls. Use misdirection plays early and often, draw plays on passing down & distance situations, end arounds, flea flickers, etc.
Run the ball
I know that sounds counter to the statement above, but Buffalo needs to not abandon the run, even if/when they fall behind. The New England safeties have been prone to bite on play fakes to support the run; get them to do that again and it creates that much more space for receivers like Stevie Johnson against a Pats secondary that has given up a league-high 42 pass plays of 20 or more yards.
C.J. Spiller is averaging an NFL-best 7.2 yards per carry; he needs to get more than the 11 touches that he had last week.
Don’t make Ryan Fitzpatrick win the game
Spiller is not only Buffalo’s most dynamic player, but giving him the ball also serves the dual purpose of taking the ball out of Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s hands. When you ask Fitzpatrick to win the game for you he may indeed get plenty of yards, but eventually he’ll make bad decisions and throw a pick or two. Be patient with Spiller, soften up the defense, and pick and choose your spots to take a shot downfield.
So will all that happen?
The Patriots can and will run the ball whenever they want to against a Buffalo defense that is allowing a league-worst 5.7 yards per carry, a league-worst 13 runs of 20 or more yards, and 170 yards per game (31st).
Once the Pats gash the Buffalo defense on the ground, Tom Brady should be able to pick apart the Bills’ secondary. Due to knee injuries to corners Aaron Williams and Terrence McGee, Buffalo will probably end up starting Leodis McKelvin at cornerback. with Stephon Gilmore and Justin Rogers. I would assume that Buffalo’s primary focus in the passing game is going to be Wes Welker, followed by tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez; don’t be the least bit surprised if Brandon Lloyd has a big game for the Pats.
With the Patriots coming off a bye they may be rusty and start a bit sluggish. Eventually the Bills will shoot themselves in the foot though; I can see the Pats forcing three second half turnovers and cruising to a relatively easy win.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Bills 20
This Day In Patriots History
November 10, 1963:
San Diego Chargers 7, Boston Patriots 3 at Fenway Park
Future Hall of Famer Lance Alworth‘s first quarter touchdown pass from Tobin Rote turned out to be the winning score in a defensive battle of what turned out to be the prequel to the 1963 AFL title game.
The Patriots defense held San Diego to 21 points below their season average with something modern day Pats fans can relate to, a bend-don’t-break defense. The Chargers offense was a one-man show as Alworth, in his second year of pro football, went for 210 yards on 13 receptions. However when San Diego got close the Pats D stood tall, limiting the Chargers to that one 27-yard score early in the game and holding San Diego to just 32 yards on the ground on 21 rushes.
On this rainy day the Patriots’ offense was unable to capitalize, turning the ball over five times. Larry Garron ran for 91 yards and Art Graham had 64 yards receiving for the Pats. The loss, coupled with a win by Buffalo dropped the Patriots to second place, a half game behind the Bills in the AFL East.
November 10, 1968:
San Diego Chargers 27, Boston Patriots 17 at Fenway Park
A late rally fell short and the Pats lost their third game in a row to fall to 3-6, while the Chargers improved to 7-2.
The Patriots defense limited John Hadl to just five completions in 23 attempts and only one completion to Lance Alworth, but Hadl hit SE Gary Garrison on a 67-yard bomb to give the Chargers a 17-3 halftime lead. The Pats cam back with a touchdown run by Jim Nance (23 carries for 96 yards) and a Gino Cappelletti 19-yard TD reception, but it was too little, too late.
November 10, 1974:
Cleveland Browns 21, New England Patriots 14
Cleveland’s Greg Pruitt returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown in what was a sign of things to come and the Browns upset the Pats. Following that score the Patriots got the ball, and Cleveland’s Thom Dardsen recovered a fumble 29 yards for another touchdown for a 14-0 lead.
The Pats regrouped and scored twice in the second quarter on a pair of runs by Sam Cunningham, but by the time the game was over the Patriots had turned the ball over six times; Darden had two interceptions to go with his fumble recovery to lead the Browns. For the Patriots Cunningham finished with 75 yards rushing while Mack Herron had 103 yards from scrimmage with 61 yards rushing and another 42 yards on four receptions.
November 10, 1980:
Houston Oilers 38, New England Patriots 34 at the Houston Astrodome
This Monday Night Football matchup between two of the league’s best teams lived up to the hype in an exciting game, though the Patriots did not emerge victorious. Just as was the case two years earlier in the Pats first ever home playoff game, Earl Campbell carried the Oilers to a victory on his back.
Houston dominated early and went into halftime with a 24-6 lead on two Ken Stabler touchdown passes and a TD by Campbell. The Pats came back with a touchdown run by Don Calhoun and 39-yard pass from Steve Grogan to Harold Jackson to cut the lead to 24-20 at the end of three quarters.
Campbell, who finished with 130 yards rushing, scored again on a short run to put Houston back up by 11 but the Pats came back with a 21-yard touchdown from Grogan to Russ Francis. Stabler responded by throwing his third touchdown pass, and the Pats came right back with another Grogan to Francis score, this one from 15 yards to pull the pats within four – but Houston held on for the win.
Campbell went on to rush for 1,934 yards, including four 200-yard rushing games that year – and also on to Canton as a well-deserving member of the Hall of Fame. Grogan finished with three touchdowns and 374 yards, the second highest total of his NFL career.
November 10, 1985:
New England Patriots 34, Indianapolis Colts 15 at Sullivan Stadium
The Pats scored 34 unanswered points to won their fifth straight game and improve to 7-3 on the season.
On defense Fred Marion had a 36 yard interception return, a fumble recovery and made nine tackles, Raymond Clayborn added a pick, and the Pats pass rush came up with seven sacks: three by Andre Tippett, two by Don Blackmon, and two by Garon Veris.
Stanley Morgan got the Pats on the scoreboard with a 19-yard pass from Steve Grogan to give the Patriots a 7-6 halftime lead. After a Tony Franklin field goal, Irving Fryar scored twice – first on a 5-yard pass from Grogan, and then on a 77-yard punt return, and the Pats were up 24-6 after three quarters. Tony Collins scored on a 2-yard run and Franklin added another field goal to give the Patriots an insurmountable 34-6 4th quarter lead before the Colts scored in garbage time for the final score.
Stanley Morgan led Pats’ receivers with seven receptions for 120 yards, while Craig James was the leading rusher with 92 yards on 18 carries.
November 10, 1991:
Miami Dolphins 30, New England Patriots 20 at Joe Robbie Stadium
On Sunday Night Football the Pats rallied to tie the score in the 4th quarter, but Dan Marino did his thing after that for a Miami victory.
Marino threw a pair of touchdowns early, including a 31-yarder to Mark Clayton, to put the Dolphins up by two touchdowns before Charlie Baumann kicked his second field goal to make the score 17-6 at halftime.
The Pats came back with a pair of Hugh Millen touchdown passes, 40 yards to Irving Fryar and five yards to Marv Cook, and the score was tied 20-20 in the 4th quarter.
After Pete Stoyanavich missed a 49-yard field goal with 5:30 remaining the Pats had the ball with good field position, but Millen stumbled and fell on third-and-4 on the next drive, and the Pats had to punt.
Marino noticed that Clayton was in single coverage and audibled with a hand signal to his receiver, and Clayton burned CB David Pool with 1:54 remaining for a 32-yard game winning touchdown.
November 10, 1996:
New England Patriots 31, New York Jets 27 at East Rutherford
The Jets blew a 21-0 lead, stumbling to 1-9 while the Patriots improved to 7-3.
The Jets, who were earlier embarrassed by the famous fake spike by Dan Marino, bit hard on multiple fakes that turned into highly successful plays for the Pats. The Patriots had a 28-yard flea-flicker, a 26-yard reverse, and two screen passes for 43 yards – all plays in which the Jets were caught out of position.
Drew Bledsoe finished with 297 yards and three touchdowns, Curtis Martin had 124 yards (43 yards rushing, 81 receiving), and Terry Glenn had 109 yards (83 receiving and 26 rushing); Willie Clay also had a 35-yard interception return.
November 10, 2002:
New England Patriots 33, Chicago Bears 30 in Champaign IL
The defending Super Bowl champs overcame a 27-6 deficit to defeat the Bears. Chicago was leading 30-25 with under three minutes to go but the Pats defense forced a three and out. Troy Brown returned a short (32-yard) punt eleven yards, and the Pats had the ball on their own 44-yard line.
Chicago’s DL Bryan Robinson appeared to seal the win with an interception but rather than go down with the ball he tried to run with it – and dropped it, for an incomplete pass. Then on a 4th-and-3 at the 30 the Pats got a first down on a quarterback sneak by Tom Brady. David Patten then beat Bears’ CB R.W. McQuarters in the corner of the end zone, was able to drag both feet just in bounds, and the Patriots got the win.
Kevin Faulk had seven catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns, including a 36-yard 4th quarter TD that set up the winning score. Troy Brown had 11 receptions for 90 yards to go with 47 yards on punt returns, and Brady finished the game with 328 yards passing and three touchdowns.
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November 10, 1997:
The most listened-to guitar player that you never hear of died. Tommy Tedesco was a session guitarist who had recorded with the Beach Boys, Everly Brothers, Supremes, Monkees, Association, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Zappa, Sam Cooke, Cher, and Nancy and Frank Sinatra. Tedesco also played on many television theme songs including Bonanza, the Twilight Zone, M*A*S*H and Batman.
November 10, 1948:
Greg Lake, singer and bass player for King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, was born in Poole, Dorsett, England
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