(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Bills will try to accomplish something they
haven't done since the final days of the Clinton administration when they
visit the New England Patriots this Sunday.
The last time the Bills won a road tilt against the Patriots was on Nov. 5,
2000, just days before the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush
and Al Gore. Unlike that contentious election, it shouldn't take the United
States Supreme Court to determine a winner in this weekend's battle between
the Bills and Patriots.
Bill Belichick was in his first season as the Patriots head coach when his
team last lost at home to the Bills over 12 years ago and quarterback Tom
Brady was still an unknown rookie. Of course, a great deal has changed since
then as Belichick and Brady have won three Super Bowls for New England en
route to cementing their Hall of Fame credentials.
Over his years coaching the Pats in the AFC East, Belichick has seen his
record against the Bills balloon to 22-4 and Brady's credentials against the
club are even gaudier. The now 35-year-old QB boasts a 19-2 mark with 49
touchdown passes and a 104.3 rating in his 21 games versus the Bills.
Overall, Buffalo has lost 11 straight games at New England and has lost 22 of
its last 24 games against the Pats.
Oh yeah, and when the Patriots traveled to Buffalo back in late September,
Brady and his offense sprinted to a 52-28 win against their overmatched
rivals. That's the level of success the Bills face this Sunday when they try
to avoid a three-game losing streak and a 3-6 record on the season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
With an average of 440.8 yards gained per game, the Patriots have the top-
ranked offense in the NFL. It's also arguably the most-balanced offense in the
league this season as New England is the only NFL team currently ranked in the
top-five in both rushing and passing yards per game.
Although, New England can technically beat you with its passing or running
attack, slowing down Brady and the aerial game needs to be the true focus of
Buffalo's gameplan on Sunday.
And it's not just Brady's long history of success against the Bills that
should have them worried because one of his best games of this season was
versus Buffalo . Back on Sept. 30 when the Pats destroyed the Bills in
Buffalo, Brady threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns and his 9.4 yards per
attempt was his highest mark of the season in that category.
The explosiveness of New England's offense was on full display in that
September meeting considering the Pats trailed 21-7 early in the second
quarter before outscoring the Bills by a 42-7 margin the rest of the way.
That kind of offensive dominance gets the attention of the opposition and the
Bills certainly can't be accused of lacking respect for Brady.
"He is the best that I have played," Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams said
of Brady. "I think that it is just on the command that he has on their
offense. He knows what the defense you are in and what it might give up, what
it might not give up and he puts them in a good position."
Of course, the best way to get Brady off his game is by getting pressure on
him, but the Bills were only able to sack the two-time Super Bowl MVP once
back in September.
"The only time he really has trouble is whenever he has got guys in his face
and guys hitting him," Bills defensive end Mario Williams said. "We have to
get that done. We have to find some way to get pressure on him and get him off
While slowing down Brady and his primary receiver Wes Welker is key to beating
the Pats, the Bills know that this version of New England's offense can just
as easily take control of the game with its running attack. The Pats out-
rushed Buffalo by a 247-98 margin in the first meeting of the season as both
Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley went over the 100-year mark.
"They are very balanced now," said Buffalo linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. "It is
not just the Tom Brady show, it's not just that they are going to line up five
wide and throw the ball around. Now they do have the run dimension and they
are averaging about 150 yards a game and that is definitely something that we
are definitely going to have to handle."
The Bills enter this week with the 31st-ranked defense out of 32 NFL teams and
it doesn't appear they have the personnel to deal with New England's well-
oiled machine of an offense.
While Bills head coach Chan Gailey believes there are no easy answers to
slowing down the Pats, he does think that poor tackling did his club in
against New England earlier this season and it's reasonable to believe Buffalo
could at least shore up that part of its D on Sunday.
"That was the biggest part of the issue last game," Gailey said this week. "We
missed 12 or 15 tackles in that ball game. You miss that many tackles, you are
going to give up some runs and they happened to be on the running plays."
Brady believes that outside of the slow start against the Bills in September,
his team eventually won going away thanks to a total team effort. His hoping
they can accomplish the same thing in Sunday's meeting, minus the early
problems, of course.
"I think everybody clicked. I think the defense clicked. I think the special
teams clicked," Brady said. "I think everything does and it's complementary
football and capitalizing on turnovers. We didn't play very well in the first
half so we were down 21-7 and it was a little bit of an adverse situation for
us and we found a way to dig ourselves out of it. Hopefully we don't have to
dig ourselves out of it this week."
Even if the Bills' track record against the Belichick and Brady-led Pats was
good, it'd be hard to pick them in this contest. Not only is it a matchup
between possibly the best offense in the league against one of the worst
defenses, New England had an extra week to prepare for the Bills after sitting
out last week on a bye. Giving Belichick more time to prepare for a team that
they ran up the score on only several weeks is clearly a bad sign for Gailey's
It also doesn't help Buffalo that its best offensive asset -- the dual rushing
attack of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller -- is capable of being neutralized by
a New England team that ranks seventh in the NFL against the run. Spiller had
33 yards in the first meeting against the Pats, while Jackson managed 29.
The most obvious way this game will be different from the first one is that
the Bills will be lucky to hold a lead at all, let alone a 21-7 advantage.