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Belichick notices Bills' AFC East success this year

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff  December 24, 2013 11:36 AM

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FOXBOROUGH – Despite Buffalo's 6-9 record, the Bills are a dangerous team that has played exceptionally well in its previous five division games this year, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday.

Buffalo, which visits Gillette Stadium on Sunday for the regular-season finale, is 3-2 against AFC East opponents this season. The Bills swept the Dolphins, split with the Jets, and lost their first game to the Patriots. But they could easily be 5-0.

"[They] lost to us on the last play (23-21), lost to the Jets on the last possession (27-20), and won three games in the division," Belichick said on Tuesday, before the team's practice. "I’m really impressed with the way they’ve been playing, obviously the way they played last week against Miami."

The Bills shut out the Dolphins, 19-0, on Sunday. They have the second-ranked rushing offense in the NFL (the Patriots are 30th against the run), and on defense, Buffalo has the second-most interceptions (22) and the most sacks (56).

One area where the Patriots have improved on defense is against deep passes. It was a major problem last season, with the Patriots giving up 74 pass plays of 20 yards or more. This year? Not nearly as many.

"We’ve certainly put a lot of time and work into it," Belichick said. "It could definitely be better, but it hasn’t been anywhere close to the issue it was last year, thank God.

"Obviously the players are doing a good job, but we’ve spent a lot of time on the deep part of the field because it’s so critical. Hopefully we can continue to play fairly well back there, because it’s just so important. When it all happens in one play, there’s nothing else you can do, there’s no chance of stopping them in the red area. It also takes a lot of other people out of the game, too, there’s nothing a nose guard can do about a go pattern, [or] an inside linebacker, those plays are so far behind them, it kind of takes them out of the game."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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