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Week 16 Bills vs Patriots: A Week 3 Review

The Patriots need to force a couple turnovers on Sunday. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The Patriots need to force a couple turnovers on Sunday. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Patriots travel to the Bills on Sunday in a Week 3 rematch between division foes. Let's take a look at what was thought after the Week 3 shootout:

Passes Defended or Yards After the Catch?: Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went to town on the young secondary of the Patriots, which was Kyle Arrington's first start, Devin McCourty's third start and Pat Chung's third start. On the other sideline, it was Fitzpatrick's first start of the season and everyone knows how the Patriots have struggled against new quarterbacks. Fitzpatrick completed 91.7% of his passes on first down, a stat that made yours truly panic about this secondary.

The defense was still learning the "bend-don't-break" style and weren't very good. The cornerbacks were giving receivers way too much space, the pass rush struggled and Fitzpatrick was given a lot of time to throw the ball. The defense was learning how to be in position to make tackles and not give up the big play, something that has become a strength for this defense. Unsurprisingly, safety Brandon Meriweather did not start because he was still doing his "freelancing" defense and ignoring his fundamentals. Sound familiar?

Looking back, the corners have absolutely improved since Week 3 and both McCourty and Arrington should have solid games against the Bills. The team has shown that they can prevent yards after the catch while also defending the pass as the secondary has grown in experience and skill. My one point from the article was that the cornerbacks needed to play a step or two closer to their receiver in order to prevent more passes, while still preventing yards after the catch. While I don't believe that the corners are playing much closer to their receivers, they are doing a much better job of recognizing the tendencies of receivers and are more able to read the plays and where the quarterback wants to throw the ball.

Some other articles after the jump!

A Look at the Defense's Youth: How true this article is. Here's a list of players who had started each position by Week 3:

RDE - 2 (Mike Wright, Warren)

NT - 1 (Wilfork)

LDE - 2 (Warren, Brace)

ROLB - 2 (Banta-Cain, Cunningham)

RILB - 1 (Spikes)

LILB - 1 (Mayo)

LOLB - 1 (Ninkovich)

#1 CB - 2 (Butler, McCourty)

#2 CB - 2 (McCourty, Arrington)

SS - 1 (Chung)

FS - 1 (Sanders)

Here's a list of who's started up until this point:

RDE - 6 (Brace, Deaderick, Love, Wright, Warren, Moore)

NT - 4 (Wilfork, Brace, Love, Pryor)

LDE - 4 (Warren, Brace, Deaderick, Wilfork)

ROLB - 3 (Banta-Cain, Cunningham, Ninkovich)

RILB - 2 (Spikes, Guyton)

LILB - 1 (Mayo)

LOLB - 3 (Ninkovich, Cunningham, Banta-Cain)

#1 CB - 2 (Butler, McCourty)

#2 CB - 2 (McCourty, Arrington)

SS - 2 (Chung, Sanders)

FS - 2 (Sanders, Meriweather)

That is an absurd increase in starter variation. In fact, Mayo's been the only constant all season as injuries has forced Wilfork to move around on the defensive line. I stated that the only direction for this defense to go is up; it appears they're heading there.

Who should be the outside linebackers?: Jermaine Cunningham had a solid game against the Bills in Week 3 and forced a couple interceptions with his pressure. My conclusion was that Cunningham should see the field more frequently as he pairs with Tully Banta-Cain. However, I stated that Cunningham should be the LOLB and TBC should be the ROLB. Looking at the strength of each player, I think the positions should be flopped. TBC has his one move- the cutback- and most left tackles can contain him. However, he should be able to speed his way pass the less quick right tackles. Cunningham has the strength that right tackles can match, but he should be able to bull his way through left tackles. Throw in Eric Moore, Rob Ninkovich and Dane Fletcher and the Patriots have a solid group of pass rushers. While Ninkovich has had less of an impact lately. Moore has emerged as a solid player and Fletcher has great closing speed. Against the Bills and their running game, I think the Patriots should utilize a front of Moore and Cunningham in order to set edges that the other OLBs cannot set.

Game Notes: Here are some of my favorite quotes:

~ Danny Woodhead, the new acquisition from the Jets, had a great game. He's a big change of pace back with fantastic on-field vision. Look for him to be used on the draw for the rest of the season. He won't be replacing Kevin Faulk, but he'll definitely help on 3rd down running plays.

~ Randy Moss is great. He got his touchdowns and he drew coverage and opened lanes. That's all Moss wants to do and it helps the offense.

~ Brandon Meriweather came on the field and made plays. He also missed a few. He was great as a run stopping safety, but he was great on runs up the middle. He took bad angles on players running outside to the sidelines. He was great around the ball, but when he was away from the ball, he struggled to help.

There are some other good points in the review. However, it's incredible the growth of Danny Woodhead and the general stagnation of Brandon Meriweather. Meriweather just seems like a player who will never realize his potential and I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots used one of their second round picks in the draft on a top free safety prospect.


The Patriots managed to hold on for a win in Week 3. Week 16 should be no different.