After a year of absence from a meaningful NFL contest, Tom Brady will reclaim his rightful spot as the quarterback of the New England Patriots. He’ll receive his first snap under the glimmering lights of Gillette Stadium on Monday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills.
Tom Brady recently said that this team was on a mission, an implicit statement of the teams quest to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time this decade, cementing their dynasty with the Team of the Decade award.
However, in order to accomplish that big goal, the Patriots have to get off to a good start in the month of September. First up for the Patriots this month are the Buffalo Bills.
This is what I think the Patriots should do in order to come away with a victory:
Defensive Game Plan
The Buffalo Bills come to Foxbourough with an altered offensive system and different players from last year.
The Bills also drafted tight end Shawn Nelson in the third round of this year's draft. Nelson is a physical specimen (6'5", 240 pounds). He has very good speed for a guy his stature, and coming out of college was known for having very good hands.
All of those weapons will cause mismatch problems that the Bills will expose once they realize it.
Running back Marshawn Lynch won't be able to play during the game due to his three-game suspension by Roger Goodell. The Bills do, however, have a capable and versatile back-up running back in Fred Jackson.
The Bills will be implanting a no-huddle offense. With Terrell Owens joining speedy and shifty wide receivers Lee Evans, Roscoe Parish, and Josh Reed, this group could cause match problems for many defenses.
The best way to stop a no-huddle offense is to disrupt the rhythm and chemistry of the players. Our cornerbacks must be physical at the line of scrimmage. Jamming the receivers will disrupt the route running. Jamming a physical specimen like Terrell Owens could be tough to do, but Shawn Springs has proven through his many battles with Owens that you need to play physical.
Starting cornerback Leigh Bodden has shown he can be physical with any receiver, including Randy Moss during training camp, but has been somewhat inconsistent during the preseason.
Along with jamming the receivers at the line of scrimmage, the defensive line needs to get penetration and get to the quarterback. This will cause Trent Edwards to hurry his throws. With cornerbacks disrupting the route running of the receivers and Trent Edwards rushing his throws, the secondary and linebackers will hopefully take advantage of the errors and mistakes.
It’s also important that the defense doesn’t show what they’re going to do before the ball is snapped, since the quarterback will be looking for mismatches. The defense must confuse the quarterback and cause sloppy and inept plays. If the defense is going to blitz Trent Edwards, they must disguise it, which shouldn’t be hard to do under a 3-4 alignment.
It’s a must to not allow a lot of yards after the catch. The Bills' receivers are shifty and fast. One missed tackle could result in a long touchdown.
- Jam receivers at the line of scrimmage
- Get penetration and pressure on the QB
- Confuse the QB and disguise coverage and blitzes
- Don’t allow any YAC.
Offensive Game Plan:
The Bills drafted Aaron Maybin, and although he missed most of the Bills training camp, he has shown his explosiveness during the pre-season.
Protecting Brady from Maybin and Aaron Schobel, who when healthy is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, is a must. Brady will be coming back from a major injury, and nobody wants to see him go down again.
It looks like Nick Kaczur will be the starter at left tackle. Belichick must see something in him that most New England Patriots fans don’t see (besides consistently being manhandled by DE and OLB.) If Kaczur struggles early, the Bills will be relentless in bringing pressure on his side.
I don’t expect Brady to have over 40 attempts this game. In fact, I’ll be surprised if we see him throw the ball 30 times. This should help the offensive line a lot.
Going against a no-huddle offense, the best defense is a time-consuming offense. In Super Bowl XXV, Bill Belichick was credited a lot for holding the high-powered Bills offense that averaged a league leading 26.8 PPG to 19 points, but the Bills were actually very efficient that game. They accumulated 371 total net yards during the game.
What won the game for the Giants (besides that missed field goal) was the punishing running game that controlled the clock and kept the Bills' offense on the sidelines. The Bills had a total of 56 offensive plays compared to the Giants 73 offensive plays. In that game, the Bills had possession of the ball 19:27 minutes compared to the Giants’ 40:33 minutes of offensive possession.
I think Bill and the offensive staff will look back at that game and hopefully put together the same offensive game plan the Giants executed during Super Bowl XXV.
If he does, look for Brady to hand the ball off to the five running backs we have on the roster. I think Fred Taylor should see the most carries out of the five running backs. He has been consistent during his career managing a very impressive 4.6 YPC with over 2,000 carries.
I expect the Bills to blitz Brady a lot. If so, this will call for the offense to execute a lot of screens. Short passes and screens will not only give Brady a steady rhythm and confidence, but also milk the clock and keep the pass rushers off-balance.
This is the situation where I think they should also use Laurence Maroney. During the preseason, he showed flashes of explosiveness (you could argue he always had that) when catching passes out of the back-field.
There is a possibility that Welker will be absent from this game, as well Julian Edelman. If so, Maroney should see a lot of screens and passes coming his way.
Since we don’t know what the defense will give us this season, a good defense is truly going to be great offense.
- Ball control offense, with long drives that control time of possession to keep the Bills offense on the sidelines.
- Screens to running backs and receivers to keep pass rushers off-balanced and give Brady a rhythm
- Keep Brady on his feet and make sure he doesn’t get hurt.