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Shutting down the Bills offense should be simple for the Patriots

It’s a one-man show.

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

The key to the Buffalo Bills offense is not a secret and therefore the New England Patriots defensive strategy should be simple and obvious- but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Bills running back LeSean McCoy leads Buffalo with 1,053 yards from scrimmage, which ranks eighth-most in the NFL in the NFL this season. What makes McCoy’s contributions more impressive than his peers is the fact that he’s pretty much the Bills entire offense.

Tight end Charles Clay has 358 receiving yards, with nearly a third (112 yards) coming in week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has 302 rushing yards. No other player on the roster has more than 270 yards from scrimmage this season.

In other words, the entire Bills offense is LeSean McCoy and a bunch of loose change in the couch cushions. Only two other players in the NFL are responsible for a greater percentage of their team’s offensive production than McCoy is for Buffalo.

  1. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell: 34.1% of the team’s offense
  2. Rams RB Todd Gurley: 32.2%
  3. Bills RB LeSean McCoy: 32.0%
  4. Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt: 31.3%
  5. Bears RB Jordan Howard: 29.7%
  6. Steelers WR Antonio Brown: 29.6%

For comparison’s sake, Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks leads the team with 890 yards from scrimmage, but accounts for just 19.7% of the New England offense.

McCoy and Clay are the only two Bills that provide more than 10% of the Buffalo offense. Cooks, Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis, James White, Chris Hogan, and Danny Amendola are each responsible for more than 10% of the New England offense.

The Patriots know they have to stop McCoy- and they’ll be ready.

McCoy is a “huge challenge obviously,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “They've done a great job finding different ways to get him the ball, not only in the run game but in the pass game. He is a guy that they have a lot of confidence in out of the backfield and whether it's maybe just a simple play that's a screen or a play that's a check down or a play where they get the ball out in the flat to him quickly and now he in space. Those [are] right [in] his strong suit of being out in the open space, being able to make guys miss, being able to get explosive burst plays vertical into the defense quickly.

“We have to be highly aware of those situations. This guy is a very dangerous player that at any point in time can take basically nothing and turn it into something huge. So that's a big challenge, and that's in both the run and the passing game.

“You'll see him run both outside but also inside. He has great patience with the ball in his hands. He waits for those holes to open up or a defender maybe to just get out of his space just enough where then he can burst through there and turn a, like I said, little play into a big play. So it's a major problem.”

“You've got to really do a great job of making sure you have all of your gaps handled inside and you’re forcing all of that up front handled appropriately,” Patricia added.

McCoy has impressive burst and is still capable of turning any carry into a touchdown. More importantly, he’s the cornerstone of the Buffalo offense. If McCoy is able to get going on the ground, then he will be able to open up opportunities for other players down the field off the play action and on option bootlegs with Tyrod Taylor.

Patricia noted that the Bills are particularly savvy at having their tight ends involved to complicate the defensive calculus.

Stopping McCoy is easier said than done, but it’s an obvious mission for a New England defense that has struggled against the run in 2017 (32nd in rushing yards allowed per play) and looks to be short-handed on Sunday due to a series of injuries to the defensive front.

If the Patriots can take away McCoy from the Buffalo offense, then New England should be able to win this game pretty easily.