While the New England Patriots’ offense turned the corner after a rocky start, the team’s defense still remains inconsistent. Luckily for the unit it will face a very favorable matchup tonight: the Buffalo Bills, owners of the NFL’s worst scoring offense. With the Bills averaging just 11.6 points per game this year, the Patriots defense should – should – be able to build some momentum today.
In order to do that, here are three key things it needs to accomplish:
Use the blitz against Derek Anderson
First things first: the Patriots defense has not been very good in 2018 when it comes to blitzing opposing quarterbacks. In fact, the team has the worst sack percentage in the NFL when bringing extra pressure (2.8%). So why should New England use this tactic against Buffalo tonight? Because the Bills have been equally bad if not worse in terms of blitz pickup and Derek Anderson is not the best of decision makers the quarterback position has to offer.
Sending extra rushers against a shaky offensive line – one that allowed a league-worst 10 sacks versus the blitz – and an inconsistent quarterback could help mask some of New England’s weaknesses when it comes to creating pressure. And even if it does not create negative plays at an increase rate, it should help impact Buffalo’s defensive rhythm and challenge the protection setting and extra blockers kept in the pocket.
Take away the run with the big bodies up front
One thing the Bills do comparatively well is run the football: led by LeSean McCoy, who is expected to play despite suffering a concussion during last week’s game, and Chris Ivory, the team has created a fairly balanced offensive attack. For New England to have success against it, taking away the ground game should be a key goal – and to do that, the right personnel has to be on the field.
Ideally, the Patriots try to get their best run defenders on the field in a base alignment that could use a 5-2 front: Trey Flowers and Lawrence Guy, arguably the team’s best run defenders, should be part of it as should be Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy rotating on the fifth end spot. Elandon Roberts should see plenty of time as an off-the-ball linebacker.
A group like this would allow the Patriots to establish a presence along the interior with the big-bodied defensive tackles, and also ensure outside contain with the experienced and technically sound edge defenders. As the desired result, the Bills would be forced to give Anderson more responsibilities.
New England usually wins in part due to being the smarter team, one not shooting itself in the foot through easily avoidable mistakes or stupid penalties. So far this season, however, this has not always been the case. Just take last week’s game against Chicago when the Patriots gave up big plays to a scrambling quarterback because they were undisciplined in keeping contain, and also committed multiple defensive penalties.
Tonight, limiting those errors would go a long way to securing the Patriots’ sixth victory of the season. If the team can stay disciplined when it comes to gap integrity, edge setting, and deep-field coverage it should be able to limit an offense that has so far been reliant on occasional breaks to get going.