Taking another look at Patriots-Bills …
PARTICIPATION REPORT: The Patriots and Tom Brady weren’t going to take too many unnecessary risks to get Randy Moss the ball. But make no mistake about it: The effort to get No. 81 in the game was there. The first ball thrown in Moss’s direction came on first and 10 from the 50 in the first quarter. New England had three tight ends in the game, with Moss motioning across the formation.
The set was designed to indicate run, with Brady throwing off play-action. Drayton Florence covered Moss down the field, with Jairus Byrd coming over late. That, at least, gave Moss a chance to make a play, established the threat, and may have open things up underneath for him later on.
Then, on the first play of the next drive, the Patriots went trips right, with Moss left. The three receivers on the right ran vertical routes, opening up the middle, and Moss ran a drag across the field. The corner covering had to give chase, playing so far off the ball, and much of the coverage was taken downfield with the three receivers on the opposite side, leaving open field to traverse. It went for 9 yards.
On the first play of the next drive, same thing: trips right, Moss running a drag from the left side of the formation. This time it produced 16 yards. And you could even say part of it traces back to that first deep shot, opening things underneath for Moss.
WES WATCH: Tom Brady said on the radio Monday that opponents have tried every which-way to slow down Wes Welker, and he’s not lying. The most effective approach was probably when New Orleans had a man covering Welker and a safety flying behind to make tackles and prevent the YAC to accumulate.
Buffalo, though, found a way to do a pretty good job, and one of their
methods was obvious on Tom Brady’s first-quarter interception. The
first part of the equation, that has to be mentioned on this play, was
Matt Light getting beat by Aaron Schobel.
But on the play, Paul Posluzny was there because the Bills sat him down
in the middle to spy on the short crossing routes. You could see
Brady’s accuracy off a little bit on the play – he released the ball as
Welker cleared Posluzny, but threw it too far inside to give the
linebacker a shot at the ball.
On the first series of the third quarter, on a third and 5, the Bills
employed the same strategy, but this time, Posluzny re-routed Welker –
giving him a hard shove – as he crossed his area, which led to
thrown-off timing, an incompletion, and a punt.
RE-GAINING THEIR EDGE: One area where the Patriots defenders clearly
struggled in the running game early was setting the edge. Tully
Banta-Cain lost outside contain on 7-yard and 6-yard runs, which allowed
Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch to turn the corner. That was
compounded by missed tackles and the inside linebackers struggling to
get off blocks without Vince Wilfork in there to draw double teams.
The latter problem persists, but the Patriots really cleaned up their
problems on the outside, which probably wasn’t an adjustment as much as
it was a coaches’ emphasis. Pierre Woods and Banta-Cain got markedly
better here as the game went on, and Adalius Thomas made his presence
felt in this area.
On a crucial second and 7 in the third quarter, Thomas held up his
blocker, which left Mike Wright singled up on tight end Shawn Nelson.
Wright shed Nelson and blasted Fred Jackson, holding him to a 1-yard
gain, another spot where a run stop allowed the coaches to get their
“UFO” package on the field.
BIG-BOY FOOTBALL: Dan Koppen’s struggled some against the league’s
bigger nose tackles, so some of his work on Sunday was pretty
encouraging. On three straight plays on the Patriots first touchdown
drive, it showed up clearly.
A 9-yard Laurence Maroney run was sprung off Koppen’s right side as he
controlled Marcus Stroud. Then, Kevin Faulk went for 7 yards out of the
I-formation with Koppen riding Kyle Williams (a nightmare for New England to deal
with all day) out of the play. Then, the Patriots converted a
second and 3 with a 4-yard run by Sammy Morris, made possible because
Koppen neutralized linebacker Chris Draft.
I’ve suspected for a little while that Koppen was feeling the effects
of some bumps and bruises. This could be a sign that he’s getting well.
KNOWING THE SITUATION: I’m not one of those people who’s been killing
Brandon Meriweather of late, because even the best safeties don’t make
game-turning plays every game, and this guy isn’t Ed Reed or Troy
Polamalu at this point anyway. But he’s made two pretty critical
mistakes in two consecutive games.
I think the one this week was tougher to swallow than the one last
week, because Meriweather has to know the situation there.
The Patriots sent seven rushers on a fourth and 8, so the defense had
very little behind him in the way of coverage. That means, in that
spot, he absolutely has to make the tackle.
And he didn’t. He went for the kill shot against a guy, in Josh Reed,
who once was a college tailback, and still runs like one. So Reed keeps
his feet, and 29 yards later, it’s a ballgame. Part of what makes the
best safeties so good is knowing when and when not to drop the hammer.
I’m pretty this was the time to wrap up and get the guy to the ground,
and not to send a message.
MATCHING UP: One way that “UFO” defense really got the Patriots’ rush
going was by getting the defense good matchups. And it wasn’t any more
clear in any spot than on the third down where Trent Edwards was
On that play, seven guys rushed. Rob Ninkovich steamed into the center,
leaving three rushers to his right and only two blockers to that side
of the Bills formation. So the guard and tackle picked up their men,
but Banta-Cain wasn’t accounted for from the edge. Fred Jackson had to
come across the quarterback to pick him up, and had no chance, as
Banta-Cain blew him up and sacked Edwards.
Understandably, considering the circumstances with the injuries, the
Bills had some communication issues up front, too. On one play, Brace
was doubled, the line didn’t slide, and Banta-Cain got a free run at
the quarterback. The Patriots deserve credit for foreseeing this
problems and exploiting them.
THIS AND THAT: Mike Wright had his big plays, but a two-play sequence
in the fourth quarter that should get some shine. It started with an
underthrow by Ryan Fitzpatrick to Lee Evans down the field, which
happened because Wright collapsed the pocket and forced the quarterback
off-balance. Next, on the aforementioned 29-yarder by Evans, Wright
started in pass rush, peeled off with the throw and chased down the
receiver, who might’ve scored otherwise. … The Bills floated rushers
around the line, too. They stood Schobel up some, and one way they got
him to the quarterback showed up on the play he tumbled into Brady’s
knee. The Bills sent Posluzny flying into Logan Mankins – almost as a
lead blocker – which got Schobel on Kevin Faulk. Schobel tried to
hurdle Faulk, but didn’t quite make it, which sent him hurdling into