LeSean McCoy is the most versatile option on the Bilsl roster. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

LeSean McCoy is the most versatile option on the Bilsl roster. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Five things you have to know about the Bills, who will travel to New England this weekend for a date with the Patriots.

1. They’re better at running the ball than throwing it.

Through three games, the strength of the Buffalo offense appears to be an ability to run the ball — the Bills average a healthy 119.7 rushing yards per game (eighth in the league) and an impressive 4.8 yards per carry (fourth in the league). However, those numbers are skewed a bit because they rushed for a whopping 208 yards last Sunday against the Cardinals, but just 65 against the Ravens and 86 against the Jets. Why the sudden spike? Maybe it’s new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and the fact that he’s considered a more running back-friendly coach. (He coached the running backs before he stepped up to take over for Greg Roman. More on Lynn in a minute.) Maybe it’s the fact that the Cardinals have been exposed as an overrated defense that’s still seeking an identity. Or maybe LeSean McCoy flipped a switch. Whatever the case, the Bills’ run game will likely be their bread-and-butter Sunday in Foxboro. It starts with McCoy, who 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. (For what it’s worth, in three career games against the Patriots, McCoy had 202 yards on 45 carries and a pair of touchdowns.) Buffalo will also mix in some designed runs for quarterback Tyrod Taylor (16 carries, 112 yards, one touchdown). Expect the Patriots to stack things up front and dare Taylor to beat them over the top.

2. They’re one of the worst passing team in the league, at least from a straight numbers perspective.

Part of it is because Sammy Watkins has struggled with a foot injury, but the Bills are at or near the bottom of the league in most major passing categories. Taylor is 47-for-77 (61 percent) with 527 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions through three games. Taylor has cracked the 100-yard mark through the air in only one of his three games (for what it’s worth, that was a 307-yard performance in a 37-31 defeat to the Jets. Obviously, the speedy Watkins is a huge x-factor here; if he can go, it’s a bit of a game-changer for the Bills’ passing attack. Watkins has six receptions for 63 yards in limited action this season. McCoy leads the team in catches, but Taylor has also zoned in on Robert Woods (11 catches, 15 targets, 81 yards) and tight end Charles Clay (seven catches 12 targets, 67 yards). The key here for New England? Maintain gap discipline and pay extra attention to Taylor or McCoy to make sure they don’t get to the second level.

3. The biggest difference in their offense since Anthony Lynn took over as OC? The tempo.

The Bills changes things up on offense on multiple occasions against the Cardinals, and while they really didn’t run much of a traditional no-huddle, they were certainly in and out of their offensive huddle quicker than the first two games. The changes in tempo caught Arizona flat-footed on occasion, and Buffalo was able to take advantage. This story gives a good look at the major changes — including the fact the Bills were often breaking the huddle with 18 to 22 seconds left on the play clock instead of nine or 10 seconds as they had in Week One. There were also changes in the way the backfield aligned, as well as a wildcat formation or two thrown in for good measure. All food for thought for the Patriots as they prepare for the Buffalo offensive scheme.

4. They are middle of the road defensively, but better than most when it comes to takeaways.

Buffalo has allowed an average of 383 total yards per game (23rd going into Monday Night Football), 285 passing yards per game (22nd) 98 rushing yards per game (tied for 14th) and a perfectly pedestrian 22.7 points per game (17th). There are no overwhelming vulnerabilities, but one area that really stands out for them is the fact that they are pretty good when it comes to turnover potential, and takeaways in particular. Some of this was because the offense had built such a sizable lead and the Cardinals were forced to throw a lot to try and get back into the game, but on Sunday against Arizona, 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).

5. Their special teamers are smart enough to take advantage of miscues.

The Bills had the good sense last Sunday to take advantage of a miserable Arizona special teams corps when they cashed in a special teams touchdown on a return of a botched snap on a Cardinals field-goal attempt. As for the rest of the special teams, kicker Dan Carpenter is 3-for-4 on field-goal attempts and 8-for-9 on extra points. Punter Colton Schmidt’s 40.6 average is 27th in the league, and his 38.4 net average is 23rd. Old friend Brandon Tate is Buffalo’s primary kick returner, and his average of 24.2 yards per return on six chances is fifth-best in the league. Tate is also the fifth-best punt returner in the league — at least from an average standpoint — at 17 yards per chance on four return chances.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ 27-0 win over the Texans last Thursday night and also to look forward to Sunday’s me

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley with Thornton on Monday to discuss the Patriots’ 27-0 win over the Texans last Thursday night and also to look forward to Sunday’s meeting with the Bills at Gillette Stadium. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Belichick confirmed the team released defensive tackle Anthony Johnson and signed defensive tackle John Hughes, who has been with Cleveland for all five of his years in the league. He was cut earlier this month, but had played in 53 games with the Browns and had 5.5 sacks and 52 tackles.

“He’s a pretty experienced defensive lineman,” Belichick said of Hughes’ role for the team. “We’ll see. We have never coached him, so we’ll put him on here and see how it goes. He’s played end, he’s played tackle. Big guy, relatively young. Has some experience that think might be able to contribute for us. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

The coach was asked if he had any update on the two injured quarterbacks — Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett — but gave an answer many expected he would give.

“We’ll give the injury report out on Wednesday like we always do,” Belichick said. “I’ll tell Stacey [James, head of PR] to make sure you get a copy of it right away. We don’t practice — I mean, I don’t know how you can evaluate a player in practice when they don’t practice.”

The Patriots have had great success against Rex Ryan-coached teams, as Belichick is 11-4 against him for his career, including the playoffs. Belichick knows what to expect each time he steps on the field against him.

“Rex has an aggressive philosophy,” Belichick said. “They love to run the ball. Do a good job of mixing it up on defense and they are strong in the kicking game. We’re going to have to do a good job in all those areas. We know defensively they will mix it up on us like they always do. A little different combination of fronts, coverage’s, pressures — sometimes three-man rush, max coverage’s — those types of things. They will just keep it moving on you and mix it up offensively. They are a big play team. They can score from anywhere and have a very athletic quarterback and are strong on special teams.”

The interview concluded with two non-football questions. For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

On if he will watch the debate: “I don’t know that I will sit there and watch it. I might listen to some it. I’m sure it will be entertaining.”

On David Ortiz: “It’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty amazing. Great. I have great respect for David, his family, his foundation, everything he does, what he’s been able to accomplish in his career and how he’s done it. For this to be his final year and the way he’s been able to perform and capture, to go out with such a great year is phenomenal. Very happy for him. He certainly deserves it. We’ll see how it all ends up. Hopefully he will end up with a ring on his finger. That was the way it happened for Tony La Russa, who is a good friend of mine in that sport. We’re certainly pulling for him. I don’t know too much about baseball. I think if I was coaching against him I don’t know how many times we would really need to pitch to that guy. I don’t know how much damage he could do when he’s on first base, but when he’s at the plate with a bat in his hands there are a lot of good things that can happen and most are good for the Red Sox.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

In six days (Monday, October 3), Tom Brady can return to Gillette Stadium after serving his four-game suspension.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

In six days (Monday, October 3), Tom Brady can return to Gillette Stadium after serving his four-game suspension.

Over his four weeks away from the team, Brady has worked out with Wes Welker, been an honorary captain at a University of Michigan football game and most recently, visited Italy with wife Gisele Bundchen.

Brady feels ready to return after a month away.

“I’ve tried to be very positive about the experience and use it to prepare myself to get ready to play,” Brady told Jim Gray on Westwood One’s Monday Night Football pregame show. “I feel like I am at a good place with one week to go.”

While Brady has been away, the team has gone 3-0 in its first three games using two different quarterbacks in the process. With third-string rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center, the Patriots beat the Texans, 27-0 last Thursday night.

“It certainly doesn’t surprise me the way the team has performed like they did on Thursday night because they are always so well prepared and they take advantage of short weeks,” Brady said. “I was so happy to see them come out and play as well as they did. They played well in every area of the game and it really took contributions from all three units. It’s tough to play on those short weeks. Your body obviously feels different than having seven days to play between games, but to see the team go out and rally against a really good Houston team was very inspiring to watch. It was a great way to get to 3-0.”

With Bill Belichick leading the Patriots to a 3-0 record while not having some of the team’s best players, Gray asked Brady if he believes the Patriots coach is the best of all-time?

“Yeah, I definitely think so,” Brady said. “I think whatever hand he has been dealt he finds a way to win. That is the mark of a great coach. Sitting on those meetings for the last 16 years and watching him prepare the team, there is no coach I would ever want to play for. He’s just remarkable in every aspect.

“It’s a privilege to play for him and I look forward to getting back out there and getting yelled at by him because he is tough on the players and he expected the most out of us each and every day. That ends up getting the most out of the players and he’s been so consistent with his approach and it’s paid off for our team for a long time.”

Brady also discussed how there will be an adjustment period for him getting back to the team and live action, but pointed to Danny Amendola, who missed all of training camp, but has had a great start to the season.

“I do admire some teammates of mine like Danny Amendola,” he said. “He didn’t practice at all during training camp and he goes out there the first week of the year and has a great game. The second week of the year, has two touchdown catches, so I’ve played with a lot of teammates who have been off for extended periods of time and they go out there and it almost looks like they are flipping a switch.

“For me, that’s not really the way I like to prepare. I like to take every rep in practice. I like to practice everyday. I’ve been able to be very healthy over the course of my career. I think that really has helped me. I am going to need to find that rhythm back and it is going to take some work and time. Like I’ve said before, that is some uncharted territory too.”

As for his trip to Italy, Brady said he had a great time, he just hopes he doesn’t visit during the month of September for quite a long time.

“We had a great time,” Brady said. “It was a great chance to get away and I’ve never had the opportunity in September and hopefully I don’t have one for a very, very long time.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Head Coach Bill Belichick on Patriots Monday
Former Patriot Heath Evans, now with the NFL Network, joins Dale, Holley and Thornton every Monday for a thorough analysis of the Patriots and the NFL. This week we break down the shutout of Houston, and look ahead to the Bills.
Head Coach Bill Belichick on Patriots Monday

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Former Patriot Heath Evans, now with the NFL Network, joins Dale, Holley and Thornton every Monday for a thorough analysis of the Patriots and the NFL. This week we break down the shutout of Houston, and look ahead to the Bills.

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[0:09:27] ... show up every week. We're talking with former New England Patriots fullback Heath Evans of the NFL network. We were talking earlier about some of the Sunday games and Michael brought a great point he said ...
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We check in with safety Patrick Chung for a brief visit on Patriots Monday and discuss the win over Houston, and the upcoming game against the Bills.

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