After a week one win against the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, the Patriots travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills on Sunday. The Patriots and Bills both look to improve to 2-0. We know what the obvious factors in this game will be, most notably the battle against Rob Gronkowski, but let's take a look at three potentially overlooked keys to a Patriots' week two win.
Secure The Edge
Star Steelers' running back Le'veon Bell was suspended for the Patriots' season opening game, forcing Pittsburgh to start veteran back DeAngelo Williams in his place. At this stage in his career, the 32-year-old Williams is considered nothing more than a solid backup.
In the Thursday night season opener, that same backup rushed for a whopping 127 yards on 21 carriers against a Patriots front seven that is thought to be among the best in the league. The New England defensive front did an extremely poor job of securing the outside of the line of scrimmage off the snap, getting beat play after play.
If the Patriots are to get a win in Buffalo, that must change. Rex Ryan's Bills offense features Tyrod Taylor, a mobile quarterback who was able to rack up 41 yards on the ground on just nine carries last week against the Colts. With the always dangerous LeSean McCoy alongside him in the backfield, beating the Buffalo offensive line at the snap and getting to the edges to contain McCoy and Taylor will be huge step towards escaping with a win.
Force The Pass
This goes along with the last one, but it will be crucial for the Patriots defense to force Tyrod Taylor to throw the ball. It starts with keeping him in the pocket by containing the edges, but a nice mix of blitzes will also go a long way towards getting the job done.
Like many mobile quarterbacks, Taylor's biggest asset is his legs. He is a decent passer, but most of his big plays in the passing game come as a result of plays made with his legs or off of play action. If he is effectively contained and the run game is stopped consistently, it will be very difficult for Taylor to put up any kind of big play throwing the ball.
With Taylor and McCoy, shutting down the run is easier said than done, but it is not impossible. Bill Belichick and the New England coaching staff will need to dialup consistent blitzes to keep McCoy and company at bay and force Rex Ryan to attack the defense through the air. The Patriot secondary is not anywhere near as talented as the one they started a year ago, but if Taylor's legs are neutralized and he is forced to throw from the pocket for much of the game the Patriots may just runaway with it.
Offensive Line Communication
The Buffalo Bills have one of the best, if not the best, defensive line in football. With Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, and Kyle Williams all on the defensive front, the Bills present a lot of matchup problems for any offensive line. With Rex Ryan running the defense in Buffalo, that defensive line gets much scarier.
In case you are not familiar with Rex Ryan's work, he is an extremely aggressive defensive play caller. He runs a lot of blitzes, and with the weapons he has at his disposal, you can expect many of those to at least result in a hurried pass.
Hurried passes won't have a devastating effect on Tom Brady, who is one of the best in the business at getting the ball out quickly, but sacks will. The key is to keep pass rushers off of his back and limit sacks. With three rookies likely starting on the New England offensive line, the Patriots have their work cut out for them. With an inexperienced line, communication will be critical as they face one of the best defenses in the NFL.
By Jacob Young, @Jacob_BBS